It was a last minute decision.
My former head coach from the time I competed on the Bradley University Speech Team (happily now known as BUST), asked me a simple question on my Facebook wall, “Are you going to AWW?” (So many acronyms…) I soon learned AWW stands for Alumni Work Weekend, where the not-quite ghosts of speech teams and national championships past are invited to converge on Peoria and coach the current team members in their quest to continue the legacy and win two more national championship titles, from AFA – American Forensics Association and NFA- National Forensics Association.
Early Saturday morning I found myself driving south, following first the Fox River and then the Illinois River all the way to Peoria, where I don’t think I’ve been in about 20 years. It was a beautiful morning, sunny and very little traffic. As I arrived on campus, it looked a lot different than it did when I was last there.
I made my way to the speech office – wow- when I competed for the team we were spread all over Bradley hall with no one home base beyond a hallway where three of the coaches and college professors had their offices. Now there is an entire state-of-the-art BUILDING dedicated to communication, which both warms my heart and makes me just a wee bit jealous at the same time.
The buildings and campus aren’t all that’s changed.
A couple rules, which were hard and fast when I competed, are now long gone. And some events look different too (I’m talking about a program duo… like cutting one play into 10 minutes wasn’t enough…sheesh.). But what struck me most is what remains the same.
Of course there are common perennial themes that college students like to explore such as sexuality, connectedness, and gender equality. But even more so, beyond the common themes, was the recurring challenge of executing the basics well.
As I coached these students, most of whom had far more talent than I and would likely have crushed me in competition, I noticed an effort to get better without completing the firm foundation. Here are a few things I found myself repeating over and again that can help anyone speaking, not just those in the tiny world of collegiate forensics:
- Slow down and enunciate: I must have written and/or spoken this 15 times on Saturday. The students were excited about their messages and clearly wanted to hurry up and get to the “good parts.” But we all have to remember, every single part of a speech is necessary in order to fully communicate the message of the presentation. Even if your introduction is perfectly memorized and you can spout it at 60 miles per hour, doesn’t mean you should. Take your time and make sure your audience can follow the meaning to your message.
- Move with purpose: This one slays me. Back in my day, walking during an interp piece was taboo. You *might* be able to get away with taking a step to one side or the other, but much like a basketball player has to pivot, there was no leaving your initial spot. So I had to quickly get used to seeing the students move all over the place, books in hand. (If you’re not familiar with the interpretation of literature in competition, competitors choose a piece of literature, poem, or a play, depending on the event; they make a script from a small section of it by cutting the story into an 8-10-minute presentation; they place the story into a small, black, 3-ring binder, and turn the pages as they present the story, bringing the story to life.) Once I got used to the idea of competitors walking around, I could appreciate how it could add to the communication of the message. But then, sometimes, a student would walk or move, just to move. It had no rhyme or reason. When you speak, pacing the stage like a cat on the prowl is distracting, no matter what you’re talking about. Walking is good; it just has to be done with a purpose: advancing the message and continuing to engage your audience.
- Gestures matter: These students, the best speakers in the country, know how to control their bodies and faces to communicate a specific emotion. Yet even the best of them needed an occasional reminder that they have to pay attention to the smallest things. One student told a story where the main character made a phone call, but then the pantomime phone suddenly disappeared into thin air, rather than completing the pantomime gesture of returning the phone to a back pocket or a table. Another student was holding a pantomime gun, but instead of having fingers and hand wrapped around the pistol as if he was really holding it, he pointed his fingers as if they were the gun. These may seem like tiny, picky little things, because they are, but its this attention to detail that will make a difference in getting into a final round at nationals or not. When you speak, be deliberate about your gestures and think about what the audience is seeing.
- One word can make all the difference: In every speech I listened to, there was often one word, one moment that represented a missed opportunity to allow the audience to experience another level of a story’s impact. Just like in real life, those tiny moments and single words can add up and make all the difference between a memorable speech that impacts the audience and one that leaves the audience a little flat. Don’t let the tiniest of moments pass by without giving thought to how you’ll present them and the power of a single word.
Going back to Bradley and working with these student was an honor and a privilege. Just as I feel when I work with my clients today, I can see those students continuing to do great things as they deliver their speeches.
Almost exactly a year ago I wrote a post confessing about how I had a really off day while keynoting at an event. Lots of kind people came to my defense and many audience members who had never seen me speak before did not even notice it. However I can count on my good friends to be honest (painfully so, sometimes!), and they agreed it wasn’t my best performance.
Well, last Saturday on the same Atlanta stage at David Perdew’s Niche Affiliate Marketing System 8 (NAMS) Event, I redeemed myself!
Last year I listed the things I did wrong and what I could do to improve.
I thought this year I’d share what I remembered to do right so my performance could be greatly improved — even with another brand new speech!
- Planned Ahead: I knew for at least 6 months I’d be back on the NAMS stage. I also knew the reason I was going was to give myself the deadline to write my new keynote speech, Kill the Elevator Speech. I didn’t wait to work on the speech.
- Got Help: Even the best performers need help sometimes, just like the top Olympic athletes need their coaches. I realize that and I reached out to my smart and creative colleagues and friends to help me come up with some ideas about how to present my speech, props I could use, how to start and more. Big thanks especially to my weekly accountability partner, Shannon Cherry who gave me the idea to use the Dragnet Theme — I used it as my attention getter. Also big thanks to my buddy coach, Kamin Bell Samuel, who worked through my entire plan with me and helped me figure out what my “deputy” buttons were going to say (they turned out great, BTW!).
- Had Personal Motivation: I told you this was a new speech. I knew I needed a deadline that was set in stone, what Paul Evans called during his speech an “immoveable deadline” to get the speech done. My new book, Kill the Elevator Speech: Stop Selling, Start Connecting is coming out soon – and this speech motivated me to finish the book, too! In addition, I knew I’d need new marketing materials to promote the upcoming book and keynote speech and that my dear friend and gifted photographer, Tony Laidig would be there willing to record my entire presentation. If the speech sucked, so would my marketing materials and I couldn’t have THAT!
- Went Against the Grain and Stuck to My Guns: Yet again all the other daily opening and closing keynote speakers used PowerPoint presentations. If you’ll recall, last year I felt the pressure to conform and so slapped a PPT together at the last minute. This year, even though I had a brand new speech and honestly could have used a PPT to remind me of what I wanted to say next, I chose to skip it altogether in favor of using props to add a visual element to my speech. As a result, I got to be creative and many audience members commented specifically on the props I used and how much they enjoyed them.
- Practiced: I’ll admit, I did not practice as much as I would normally recommend to my clients, but I did practice important bits of my speech so I’d know how they would sound and feel when I delivered them for reals. I also had a captive audience in my publisher, friend and roomie for the event, Kristen Eckstein who graciously listened to me practice at 1 AM after being out dancing and singing karaoke. (Oh, I don’t actually recommend you go out and party all night when you have an 8:30 AM speech, but I knew I was prepared and I couldn’t resist spending that quality fun time with my good friends! Plus I drank only water and only sang one group song so my voice wouldn’t be shot and I wouldn’t wake up with a screaming headache!)
- Visualized: I knew the layout of the room and I worked on seeing myself walking in, on the stage and knocking it out of the park.
- Prayed: This is how I center myself moments before I go on stage. Whatever you can do to calm down and get grounded, do it: breathe, meditate for a moment, get quiet and get focused.
- Worked From a Full Word-for-Word Script: I know this may come as a surprise because when I teach my Signature Speech (TM) students to prepare their speeches, I recommend using only an outline rather than writing the speech out verbatim. However, there are a number of things different about this. First a keynote, which is a product in an of itself, is drastically different than a Signature Speech (TM), which is marketing tool. Also, to start I’ll be charging $15,000 per speech for my keynote, which I will deliver again and again, likely for years to come. Having a script will allow me to tweak it over time. This speech had props, jokes, and stories I wanted to get right. I put all the stage direction into the script so I would remember my plan. Finally, I printed my script and actually used it as a prop during the speech, so it worked well for a first time (and by the time I deliver it again it will be fully memorized ).
So, that’s what all came together to make this year’s speech go very well. I feel like I can hold my head high with pride now with the NAMS community.
Oh- and if you want to hear my speech, you can access it and all the NAMS8 recordings right here.
Soon kids everywhere will be sporting new wardrobes, sharpening new pencils, choosing their favorite folders and heading back to write essays about what they did this summer.
Not long after, we parents will receive the inevitable fundraising package from school where we can have the luxury of buying overpriced wrapping paper and cardboard-like frozen pizzas, while being asked to bug neighbors (who also have kids with the same fundraisers), extended family members, and colleagues at work to also take part in the never-ending quest of raising funds for schools.
But there are better, more creative ways, that are also less offensive to the taste buds and pocketbook.
For example, one interesting and more fun alternative to holding the same old fundraisers I’ve recently heard about is to raise funds through bingo events. My friend Shannon Cherry actually did her own version of bingo at her live event. And that got me to thinking about how you can use your skills to do something community-building and fun to raise funds for your favorite group
In my best-selling book, 21 Ways to Make Money Speaking, Way 6 is Speak to Help a Charity. When school begins this year, you can get in touch with the fundraising chairperson – almost always a volunteer eager for ideas and help – and offer your services as a speaker to hold a fundraising event where you either donate your services in full, or, for you to make some money too, split the ticket sales 50/50 with the school. The book has a few more strategies in that Way for you to bring in some additional cash for the school and for you as well.
Then all you need to do is come up with a speech topic that is both relevant to your expertise and relevant to the parents at school (remember – school is about the kids, but fundraisers have to appeal to the parents, who hold the money).
For example, in my business I teach public speaking and communication skills to celebrities, experts, and entrepreneurs. Obviously that’s not going to appeal to all the parents at any given school. But in my days before my business, while teaching public speaking classes at the college level, I also taught interpersonal communication courses and male-female communication courses. I could easily pull together a fun 60-minute program on how parents can better communicate in their marriages and with their children using interactive exercises and more.
Remember, your goal here is to get paid to speak (so you can add “professional speaker” to your repertoire and bring in some cash) and to help others by serving from the stage at the same time, in this case specifically in raising funds for a school. But you can also have a display set up where you sell your books and offer your business cards, brochures and other marketing to those who attend who might be interested in working with you later, therefore turning the fundraising speaking event into a lead-generation tool for you as well.
So what do you think? Will you give this a try this at school year instead of being forced to buy a bunch of sub-par stuff – and do your part to serve from the stage? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Having written two full-length books with another under contract, a handful of ebooks, and thousands of articles and blog posts, I know what it’s like sitting with a blinking cursor in front of you on a blank screen, almost mocking you. It’s not like you don’t have ideas. It’s not like you don’t know your stuff. But golly… when it comes time to put your butt in the chair and roll up your sleeves, something can overcome even the most accomplished, brilliant expert like you.
Call it writer’s block. Call it performance anxiety. Call it procrastination. Whatever it is, if writing a book is on your list of goals for 2012, the name of what’s stopping you from reaching your goal doesn’t matter — you gotta get past it and git ‘er done!
Enter: Public speaking.
If you are an author or want to be an author, one of the easiest places to start is with the speech you’ll give to talk about your book. I call it your Signature Speech™ for Authors and it can help you do a number of things:
1. Clarify your thoughts: when you have a bunch of ideas all rumbling around in your head, for many of us it often helps to talk your ideas out. One way I’ve found to be useful is to put together a list of questions I’d want someone to ask me about my book. Then I can come up with my answers.
2. Determine the hot topics: Yes, your entire book will be filled with useful information that is important to advancing your field, helping your readers, and in general sharing a bit of yours and others’ expertise. However, there will be parts of your book that will get readers extra excited—whether that is a new development in your field, a contrary opinion you have backed up by data, or a new way of looking at or doing something. People will be talking. Putting together your speech will illuminate for you what that will be because in any speech you want to serve from the stage with details that get your audience excited about their experience of listening to you.
3. Think in user-friendly chunks: Writing an entire book can be overwhelming. But when you write a speech, typically you start with the body of the speech, which should contain from 3-5 main distinct points, presented clearly for your audience. Each main point will be chunked into sections. Your book outline can then quickly spring from those sections.
4. Determine your goal for the book: Most savvy authors know it’s not the sale of your book that will make you money. It’s what you do to capitalize on the content from your book (use the buzz word “leverage” if you like) that will bring you the greatest cash flow. When you pull back from the blinking cursor and look at your book from a 20,000 foot view as a cog in a wheel of content and opportunities for you, what details belong in the book become clearer. When you develop your speech first, you can easily see what content needs to be more fully elaborated on in your book and then further in programs, mastermind groups, and membership sites, all of which lead to more money in your pocket, in addition to being paid to deliver the speech itself!
5. Get feedback from audiences BEFORE your book is in print: Making changes in your book after it’s been published can be an expensive and daunting task (trust me… I’m writing the 2nd edition of my first book.). When you present the content of your book to live audiences you get the huge benefit of hearing their feedback on parts they liked best, parts they want to hear more about and parts they don’t care much about at all. You can deliver your speech to live audiences in person, but also think about teleseminars, webinars, being a guest on a blog radio talk show, presenting a podcast or other creative ideas to get your content in front of audiences to get that vital feedback.
If you are an author or want to be, you can pick up a free 24-minute video about getting started writing your own Signature Speech ™ for Authors at http://signaturespeechforauthors.com/.
In July 2008, I attended my first Internet marketing conference. That was my introduction to a whole new world, live and in person.
Because of events that happened at that 3-day conference in Chicago, within a couple weeks I was quickly propelled to success in the Internet marketing crowd, being interviewed on radio shows by some of the biggest name “gurus,” being promoted by others, and began speaking on stages across the country about communication and public speaking. Effective communication is a skill you need in any business and Internet marketing is certainly no different.
It was a very exciting time. Except over and over again, I kept hitting a brick wall in that marketplace. His name is Frank Kern.
Frank Kern has created a persona of himself as “laid back surfer dude done good.” He’s built a wildly successful Internet empire based on his solid concepts and content, which honestly is always good, but isn’t exactly rocket science or anything new. However, because he packages it well and is a master at selling himself, his persona, and his products, Mr. Frank Kern has become a very wealthy and successful man. Good for him.
Along with that success, over the years Kern has accepted many invitations to speak on stage to his marketplace, and has recorded dozens of talking head videos. As he should, he maintained his “surfer dude” persona while onstage or on video, typically wearing shorts, t-shirt, ruffled hair and an unkempt beard. And, even though I’ve never met the man personally, he caused all kind of headaches for ME.
As a public speaking consultant, I talk to my clients and audiences all the time about the importance of looking the part of a successful business owner and dressing to that image of success. Then here comes Frank Kern, who, dressed in whatever he wore to bed the night before and cursing at his audiences, is hugely successful with a large following.
The most savvy of business owners in his market realized all along he was dressed that way and speaking in that manner because it worked for his persona. Keeping up that image was a large part of his success, with the implicit message to others just beginning their Internet businesses, “You can do this too.” That led to an interesting phenomenon.
Thousands of 20-something young men believed they could curse and dress like slobs all the way to millionaire status success, because Frank Kern did it. Never mind that persona was completely orchestrated. Like a theme for a party or special event, Frank Kern stayed true to character and his fans ate it up.
Until last week.
Last week, Frank Kern released what he calls his State of the Internet Address. As you can see from the screen capture of the video, Frank Kern has cleaned up a lot. He’s wearing a custom-made suit. He’s trimmed his beard, cut his hair, and is sitting behind a desk in a large office. As of this writing more than 1,900 people have clicked “Like” on Facebook for the video.
In a subsequent post to his Facebook fan page, he talked about how a few people gave him some flack about the new look, but the overwhelming majority of comments were all about how pleased his audience members are to see him cleaned up and dressing the part of a wealthy and successful business owner.
Even in our “occupy movement” world, business owners want to look up to someone who is successful. And that means looking the part.
So this is a public thank you to Mr. Frank Kern. You just made my job a whole lot easier. Here’s what Frank Kern did with this video that made me smile and that you can emulate for your business communication while speaking on video:
- He dressed the part. Finally a guy who’s making millions looks like more than a surfer dude, even if only for one video.
- He used a “Talking Head” video. With all the resources at his disposal, Kern could have chosen to produce ANY kind of video and had it look and sound like Hollywood quality. In fact, he actually employed the services of an Emmy-award winning editor, but at its essence, this is a basic talking head video in a location that screams, “Professional who knows what he’s talking about. Take notice and listen.”
- He was deliberate in his communication decisions and it showed. Here’s the thing: I may not have ever met him, but I’m personal friends with one of Frank Kern’s business partners, and I can assure you, Kern’s decisions about his persona and communication have always been deliberate. But now, with the release of this video, those deliberate decisions are obvious.
So what do you think? How do you “look the part” when you speak? Do you think your appearance matters when communicating credibility?
The weather was crisp in the late afternoon hours as we headed for the choir of the bells Christmas Eve service at the beautiful small-town church in east Tennessee. As my mother-in-law guided us to a place in the crowded pews, warmly greeting friends along the way, the late afternoon sun was streaming in through the circular stained-glass windows. Children looked wide-eyed around the large building in anticipation of the joy to come over the next day.
- Stories enhance any communication situation. Remembering facts and statistics isn’t as easy for most people as it is to remember the details of a well-told story. Include them everywhere, as often as possible.
- The story should illustrate a point. You never want to leave your audience wondering what that was all about. Make a clear connection between your story and the reason for telling it.
- Emotions are important. Use language that evokes emotion. Even if you never say the word “feeling,” you can use adjectives, adverbs, and settings to set the emotional scene of any story.
- Adding little details enhances the story, but don’t sweat the exactness of it all. Maybe I got Leo the Lion when I was 8 years old or the church was in North Carolina instead of Tennessee. As long as the essence of the story remains, don’t stop yourself 15 times as you tell it trying to recall if your story happened on a Monday or a Tuesday. No one is giving a history test after your story.
- Pay attention to your nonverbal expression of the story. Speed up when you’ve reached an exciting point, slow down and lower your volume to invoke intensity, and use gestures to enhance your audience’s overall meanings.
If you know me at all, you know I tend to steer FAR clear of any talk of politics. Even with friends & family (right JAM? ). I leave that kind of talk to those who are far more knowledgeable about the issues than I am.
But… one issue that I can confidently comment on is the communication style and public speaking skills of anyone “out there” in the public eye. I like to do so in a way that is relevant to the small, home-based, or micro-business owner.
Whether you agree or not with the Nobel Peace Prize committee’s choice of US President Barack Obama as the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner, there is one thing that is certain: as with the national election, public speaking played a major role in why Obama won.
In fact, according to multiple reports, speeches made by President Obama were the primary reason why Obama won. The Associated Press Reports on Yahoo News that, “The Nobel committee said it paid special attention to Obama’s vision of a nuclear-free world, laid out in a speech in Prague and in April and at the United Nations last month.” (My italics for emphasis!)
If his speeches are responsible in large part for Barack Obama winning a Nobel Peace Prize, the power of public speaking is far-reaching.
So, if we bring this to the level of the small business owners, home-based business owners, micro-business owners, and entrepreneurs everywhere it becomes clear: a speech is a powerful mode of communicating your message so you can influence more people. When you have effective communication skills and dynamic public speaking skills, you’ll be able to win more of what you want: more prospects, more clients, and more cash flow now.
Do you have a speech ready to deliver now? Is it polished? Is it getting you results? Discover the Signature Speech and what it can do for your business. I’m starting what just may be the final Signature Speech Solutions Group telecourse in a few weeks.
I’m having a Twitter pre-launch party!
What the heck does that mean?
Well, first off if you’re not using Twitter for business, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. To get an idea of one cool way to use Twitter in your business, you can watch what I’m up to over the next day. You’ll see how using the viral nature of Twitter I’m (hopefully!) going to build buzz for my upcoming Signature Speech Secrets free preview call with help from my friends and followers there.
You see, that’s the beauty of Twitter. You make friends, build relationships and people there will help you when you need it. For me it’s a fabulous community.
Anyway — about Monday night: I’m excited because I’ve lined up a bunch of fun stuff all about public speaking. Here’s my plan for my hour-long Twitter launch party:
- Cool Free Gifts: I’ll be giving away free gifts to those who comment on my blog and sign up for the free Signature Speech Secrets call (happening Thursday, April 16)
- Inspiring quotations: I love surfing the web for nuggets of wisdom and I’ll be sharing those I find about speaking and having a successful business with everyone at the party
- Rockin’ Songs: I’m a new Blip.fm user and I’ll be spinning some songs to keep the mood at the party light & fun
- Videos: I’ve made a few videos in the past few days that party guests will get to enjoy, too — of course about public speaking
- Public speaking tips: You know I’ll be tweeting some of my best tips I can in 140 characters or less and even helping people live on Twitter who need advice, tips & techniques.
If you want to get more prospects, more clients, and more cash flow now — this is one party you won’t want to miss! Be ready and on Twitter following me at 9 PM eastern / 8 PM central / 6 PM pacific for a wild ride, loads of fun, and valuable info you need to succeed now.