Question: Which came first, the book or the speech as a marketing tool?
Answer: It doesn’t matter! They are both fantastic and you can use both to sell the other!
It doesn’t matter what you do in your business. Being successful boils down to one thing: getting people to pay you for your products or services. Even if your main source of business is referrals, those referrals still need a way to discover what you’re all about. How do you do that? There are only two primary ways: in writing or by speaking. Everything else is an offshoot of those two basics.
Think about it. Even if you don’t have an official speech or you haven’t written a book yet, someone is going to email you or call you. And then you’ll have to answer in writing or by speaking to them on the phone or in person. Or they are going to Google you and run into your website where there is writing and hopefully video of you welcoming them. So let me ask you this:
Are you busy?
The answer is a big, huge, OF COURSE YOU’RE BUSY!!
So one more question: If you’re busy, why not leverage what you’re already doing to make your marketing and your life easier?
As a speech trainer and communication consultant, I’ve been on stages everywhere since the very beginning to market my own business. I started speaking in front of audiences of hundreds of people since the time I was 7 years old; so it’s natural to me. What wasn’t as natural was writing my first book. But here’s how I did it.
- Step 1: I wrote a bunch of specific blog posts about various topics I knew my potential clients wanted to hear more about because audience members were asking me the kinds of questions I answered in the posts.
- Step 2: Then I turned those blog posts into a fixed-term 12-week private membership site, which allowed me to fill in any blanks of tying that content together, as well as including specific activities members could do to help them implement the content.
- Step 3: I took the 12-week membership site content, and turned that into 12 chapters of a book, plus wrote an introduction and conclusion. I added a quiz on Communicating with Confidence for one of the chapters, had the whole thing edited, learned what to do next from Kristen Eckstein to get it into print and self published that baby.
I wanted to write a book because it’s been one of those life-long bucket list things for me. Plus, most speakers worth their fee have at least one book published. So now I had a book. But then, that’s when something interesting happened.
People started to ask me to SPEAK about my book.
And then at those events where I was the featured speaker, audience members would buy my BOOK.
Then people who saw one or the other or both started HIRING ME.
It was AWESOME! One led to the other and back to the other and so on and so on…
As I went on, I decided I wanted to have some better marketing materials. Because the book and the speech were working SO well for me, I wanted to get them in front of more people. What I needed was a Speaker One-Sheet (or Author One-Sheet, depending on if you wrote your book or your speech first! LOL)
The one-sheet is a printed single-sided, brief marketing piece you can put on your website as a PDF or print and send to meeting planners about your topic. It looks all fancy and professional-like, which is how you want to portray yourself as an author, speaker and consultant, in case you didn’t know.
Next came the problem of the proverbial cobbler’s children having no shoes (that would be me not having a one-sheet!).
I know that a one-sheet is an important marketing tool. But (luckily) I was too busy to go through the gyrations of having one made. Finding a designer that didn’t flake out AND who understood me and what I wanted, trying to figure out the look and feel I wanted to convey, deciding what to put on it, well, it was time-consuming. And I realized, I’m not the only one who doesn’t have time for even the things that I know should get done.
So I created these Speaker One-Sheet Templates (using Powerpoint of all things!), because I know how to use Powerpoint and now I can crank one out in mere minutes. No hassle. Dozens of other speakers and authors have been using them, too and they all love them.
Author Shelley Hitz said:
I’ve been needing an updated one-sheet for the speaking I do and have been procrastinating hiring someone. I personally bought one of Felicia’s templates and within an hour had my one-sheet ready and added to my speaking page! WooHoo!
These speaker one-sheet templates are fast, easy, and give you a professional way to be sure you are using the full power of the speaking – writing marketing cycle.
Do you ever wonder if your audience is as excited about your speech as you are? Or maybe, are you secretly worried that you might be boring your audience to tears?
- Sleepers: Some people have incorporated so much movement and activity into their lives that when they are forced to sit still, like during your speech, no matter how fantastic you are, they literally collapse and fall asleep. That’s more about them than it is about you. But if you have more than one person looking groggy as you speak, you could be boring.
- Otherwise Engaged: If your audience members are sneaking glances at their phones, zoned out, arms crossed, looking around the room, and not listening to you or your message, you could be boring.
- You Don’t Ask for, And Don’t Get Any Response: If your entire speech is one-sided and could be delivered the same exact way by video, you’re missing the point of having people there in person. With a live audience, you have the opportunity to ask questions, elicit feedback, even – gasp- ask them to stand up and move a little. If you deliver a monologue and never even ask for so much as an occasional head nod, you could be boring.
Last week I had the opportunity to speak at a women’s symposium event in beautiful Galena, Illinois. My client, Brian Basilico, author of It’s Not About You, It’s About Bacon, introduced me to the meeting planner because he was going to be speaking at the same event and was booked before I was. In a typical turn of events where another speaker had cancelled (sadly this happens all the time), the meeting planner called me in a panic; would I be willing to fill in at the last minute with less than 2 weeks’ notice? Sure. Of COURSE I would; I was planning to be there anyway!
One of the sponsors of the event, the beautiful and serene Aldrich Guest House Bed & Breakfast, was host to the speakers the night before the event. So there I was, sitting around the dining room table with Brian, an expert in social media, and Traci D. Ellis, an attorney who works with professional women handling their business and personal needs. Smart people.
Yet, as we chatted about our presentations (and they both put finishing touches on their slides), I quickly learned that neither had planned to offer anything for sale to the audience, except for Brian’s book.
As I explained to them, there will be people in any audience who are ready to buy something from you RIGHT AT THE MOMENT YOU ARE ON STAGE. Unless it was in the speaker’s agreement with the event that you would not be permitted to sell any products or services, then by all means you should. And here’s why:
If you firmly believe in your heart of hearts that what you do for people with your services or the results that using your product can truly enhance the lives of those who invest, then it is wrong to withhold that from people you know you can help and who need it. All that’s left to do is to make sure they know what it is you offer. Plain and simple.
Beyond that, you deserve to make a living. Yes, I know you love speaking. And yes, I know it’s a joy just to be able to share your information with an audience. And yes, of course you get plenty of benefits from speaking even if you don’t make a dime. But as one of my mentors, Jeff Herring has always said, if you go out of business because you’re not making enough money to support yourself, then you’re doing the world a disservice, robbing them of your unique gifts. So get paid when the opportunity presents itself.
There are too many complex steps to “closing” on stage with audiences so you get the maximum results to discuss in a blog post. Even so, with some audiences, you don’t need a bunch of tricks and techniques; and they may not be appropriate for that audience anyway. Even if you never try a single “closing technique,” all you simply have to do is tell your audience members, “You might be wondering about how the details of what we’ve been talking about today can help you. I also do consulting in my business where I talk to my clients on the phone for an hour and we work out the details to [fill in the blank]. Normally I charge $250 for this hour. Today I’m offering a [discount/bonus/wh
atever] so you’ll get that hour for just $197. If [what you do] is something you’ve been struggling with, let me know today and I can help you.” You’re not hard selling. It might take you all of 30 seconds to say. You’re just sharing in a friendly, helpful way.
Using that simple strategy, Brian was excited when he was approached by a couple people who wanted his offer and one ready to give him a
check on the spot. Had he not offered it, the opportunity could easily have been lost, the moment past, and the cash left on the table. Instead, by simply offering a service, someone in the audience gets to benefit from Brian’s substantial brilliance. And I couldn’t be happier for him or his new client!
Do you always offer something for sale when you speak? How has that worked for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
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/.
Recently, I learned from Bill Glazer, who before becoming a highly paid marketing teacher and consultant, ran his own successful menswear retail store for 30+ years. This guy has sales and marketing in his blood.
The purpose of the event was to show new members of the Glazer Kennedy Inner Circle how to move forward with their new membership and learn some basic marketing skills and beyond. The focus of the event was clearly on teaching and training.
However, because Bill is an awesome marketer, when he had the opportunity to talk about his company’s products, he did so, unapologetically. He didn’t come across as pushy or “salesy” – simply suggesting that if audience members were interested in learning more, there was more training to do so, gave them a reason to pick it up today, and casually moved on to his next training point.
It’s like he can’t turn it off.
Even as he went through his training presentation, much of the language was written in a way to sell the audience on paying attention to the next part of the training, keeping us interested and fully engaged. I’ll tell you, keeping an audience fully engaged for an hour isn’t easy to do, but for two very full days, that takes serious skill. Because Bill understands how to keep people engaged – after all marketing is all about engaging an audience so they pay attention to your offers – he was able to keep a room full of 300+ entrepreneurs paying rapt attention the entire two days.
The second entrepreneur was in the audience.
After the main meeting ended, there was a smaller follow-up implementation group with about 95 audience members from the local area. During that meeting one of the people in the audience stood up and started banging on the table, cursing and trying to “fire up” the audience to get excited about their businesses. In doing so, he made one of the official presenters running that part of the event clearly uncomfortable. So here was this guy, who has yet to be successful in his business as a personal trainer talking his talk by trying to be motivating.
However as I looked around the room, most audience members looked shocked, irritated and embarrassed by this person. The reaction had a lot to do with how he was speaking out of turn inappropriately. But something else struck me about why he was sitting in the audience and why his business has yet to be successful. As a personal trainer, his own body is anything but in shape.
Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not picking on the guy because he has some weight to lose (ha- I could stand to lose a few myself!). His issue goes way deeper than that. He has an integrity issue. And sadly many yet-to-be-successful entrepreneurs and experts suffer the same fate.
If you are not walking your talk and living what you teach others, people will not take you seriously and will not buy from you. The message you communicate is “do as I say and not as I do.” And that’s a major problem.
Who would want to hire an out of shape personal trainer?
Or an organization expert who pulls up to the networking meeting in a messy car?
Or a time management expert who is always late?
Or a graphic designer with a visually boring logo and outdated website?
Or a wealth coach who is in debt?
Make sure your first and best customer is YOURSELF.
When you live and breathe your own message:
You become a walking billboard for what you do.
People are instantly attracted to you because you are in full integrity.
Your credibility is inherent in who you are.
Prospects can see clearly that you are successful at what you teach and are easily motivated to hire you to show them how to do the same thing.
Someone like Bill Glazer, who is a millionaire many times over, has thousands of customers around the world because he lives and breathes his message. His entire world communicates that he IS a marketer. It’s not just his words. His words, his actions, and his life communicate a completely congruent message. So take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself which entrepreneur are you most like and commit to doing whatever you must so your messages are in full alignment with who you are.
So tell me, how do you live and breathe your own personal message . . . or what changes do you think you can make to start to get your walk and talk to align with your message?
In 1962, communication researcher Marshall McLuhan began to popularize the term “global village.” At the time, he was talking about the implications of the “modern” mass media and technology, such as televisions and telephones, for creating the kind of world where connecting with other people and cultures around the globe was possible. All that then allowed the average person sitting in their homes to communicate with people no matter where they are and to see how they live through the images on the TV right in their homes.
Fast forward to today when we now can take the global village with us on our smart phones, tablet devices, and few well-selected apps, and suddenly any expert or entrepreneur has the capability of reaching out to the world.
Pretty exciting stuff!
In fact, what’s most exciting for folks like us is that if you want to speak, you can easily be in touch with your market. Using video online you can create a feeling of intimacy of being face-to-face while never leaving your own home or office.
So now that you know you can reach your audience ANYWHERE what would you say and how would you say it?
One of the best and easiest ways is with video. Here are just a few of the ways you can use a simple yet powerful way to connect that is just like you face-to-face over a cup of coffee with your viewers:
1. Instructional/Promotional Videos on Free Sharing Sites: Think YouTube. Be careful here. The best uses of videos on sites like YouTube, Viddler and Vimeo, just to name a few is to entertain or provide useful info (or both!). Record a series of videos that are a glossary of terms your market needs to know or one video per frequently asked question. Here’s an example of public speaking tip I put up on YouTube.
2. Welcome Video on Your Website: If you have a more brochure-style website you can use a quick video to welcome visitors and telling them about your site and what you’d like them to do while they are visiting. See the example of how I do this on http://FeliciaSlattery.com.
3. Squeeze Page AKA Opt-In Video Invitation: As you’re building your community of subscribers, record a quick personal invitation to sign up to receive a free report, e-course, white paper, or ….
4. …Video Training Series: After a new subscriber opts in, you could provide a longer video training with some greater details in it.
5. Testimonial Video: When you are thrilled with a product or service or even an ezine, ahem (hint, hint, wink, wink, nudge nudge…), you could record a video to let others know about your good experience, especially if it relates in some way to what you do for others. It shows you’re keeping up-to-date in your field and working to better yourself, just like you’re likely encouraging your clients and prospects to do as well. People are more likely to buy from you or connect with you when they see you modeling the same behavior. Put these videos on your blog, Facebook, or YouTube (or all three!).
I would love to hear from you. What are some creative ways that you have used to reach your audience? Please share in the comments!
As a professional speaker, I travel often enough to have my share of frequent flier miles. Recently I was surprised when I opened my email to receive a notice from American Airlines, my airline of choice when I fly out of O’Hare. In that email I was assured that the announcement American Airlines made about filing for “reorganization under Chapter 11″ – that’s fancy financial speak for bankruptcy- would not hurt my frequent flier miles in any way. Huh.
Later, as I was enjoying some quiet downtime with my husband watching TV, I saw an ad that made me start thinking. Southwest Airlines announced they are now expanding their service again and will soon be flying into Atlanta.
So there it is–on the same day one airline announces major struggles another airline announces its growth. Harkening back to a song from my shoulder-pad wearing, be-bop dancing college days in the late ’80s/early ’90s by C & C Music Factory, file that under, “Things that make you go hmmm….”
Why is it that one business thrives and another business in the exact same industry is flailing, trying desperately to stay afloat?
In looking at what Southwest Airlines does right, we solo professionals and home-based business owners can learn a few lessons about what it takes to succeed.
- Southwest Airlines employees LOVE their jobs and it shows in the customer experience. This is honestly why I choose Southwest when I have an option. With the FAA and TSA making us remove our shoes, belts, jackets, and just about every ounce of dignity as we have our bodies x-ray searched; weather-related and mechanical flight delays; over-crowded airports and planes; and overpriced everything, let’s face it: flying can be quite a hassle. That’s why it’s such a breath of fresh air to fly with Southwest. The gate attendants are typically pleasant and the flight attendants often have fun ways of welcoming passengers aboard with jokes, songs, and witty comments. What you can learn: When you love what you do it shows and customers are attracted to that. That’s passion and passion is one of the fundamentals of building your charisma and therefore your credibility.
- Southwest Airlines bucks the “industry trends” to do what they feel is right for their customers and their company. I’m talking about those baggage fees other companies charge. With Southwest you get your first TWO checked bags totally free. Active military folks get all their bags for free. At Southwest there is no such thing as a change fee, phone reservation fee, or cancellation fee. No other major airline has as many customer-friendly non-fee policies. Even without all the extra fees other carriers tack on, Southwest is still succeeding financially while the others struggle. What you can learn: Stop watching the “Joneses” in your industry! So what if everyone else is doing something? If you don’t personally believe in it, if it’s not right for YOU and your customers, then it will never work. You must build your business around your values. When you do, customers with similar values will show up and stick around.
- Southwest Airlines focuses on relationships and everything else (including success) follows. Southwest focuses on “high performance relationships based on shared goals, shared knowledge, and mutual respect among all lemployees, and suppliers,” as explained in Jody Hoffer Gittell’s book The Southevels of management, west Airlines Way. When your company is about people, everything else can easily fall into place. W hat you can learn: Build your business around people and your relationships with them. That’s one reason I love public speaking combined with following up on social media. You start a relationship by providing great info and continue the relationship by being social. Respect everyone you work with at all levels including assistants, vendors, prospects, customers/clients, sponsors, and colleagues. Foster those relationships and people will support you and take care of you and you will succeed.
We can all learn lesssons about what to do — and what not to do — from other businesses, whether they are in the same industry or not. Now it’s your turn: What lessons about success have you learned from watching others?
I just watched President Obama’s American Jobs Act Speech he made to the US Congress. If you are a regular reader of this blog you know I do not comment on political aspects of a speech, but what we as professional speakers and business speakers can learn about the style and delivery.
As I watched the President within the first 3 minutes it was clear, the president had but one main and clear message to his primary audience– members of the United States Congress. His message: “Pass this bill right now.”
- “The millions of Americans….” Within the first one minute of his speech at the 39-second mark, President Obama presented a well-rehearsed expression of emotion for the people who need jobs and were watching to see what the president was going to do to help. Although his primary audience was the people in front of him, the US members of congress, his secondary audience — and not secondary by much– was the “millions of Americans” watching his speech from their homes. It was obvious the President knew he was speaking to more than just the people in the room.
What Business Speakers Can Learn & Implement: Make sure you are aware of your various audiences. In any one audience you’ll have people who want to hear your content and learn from you, but you’ll also have the meeting planner who invited you to come speak, potential other meeting planners watching to see if you’d be a good fit for their audiences (or departments or staff), and possibly even potential consulting prospects watching to see if what you present might be of value to them enough to want to hire you as a consultant.
- Established the Pain Points for the Audience: Obama talked about how historically if Americans worked hard and remained loyal to their companies they would be rewarded with decent salaries and good benefits, but that has all changed now. How for decades we Americans have watched that confidence erode and blamed who many of us “regular folks” put blame on come election time, the politicians in Washington. He asked “the question is in an ongoing national crisis can we stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy?” That is the sentiment of pain from both sides of the political aisle and the cry of Americans who are out of work, underemployed, and dealing with the negative consequences of a prolonged recession and down economy.
What Business Speakers Can Learn & Implement: Your audience needs to know you understand their pain and you get them. They must know that you are fully aware of what they are going through and can articulate their current struggle. No matter if you speak about how to set up an accounting system or how to experience more joy in your life, you’ve got to meet the audience where they are now and show them you get what they are going through so you can then move forward and present your solutions, formulas, steps, and ideas. They will listen when they feel you get them.
- “You Should Pass This Jobs Bill Right Away.” Starting at minute 3:12 the President began his solid messaging: urging the Congress to pass his bill. Exactly 14 times during a 10-minute period of his speech he repeated the same message over and again. “Pass this jobs bill right away.” To emphasize why he also used repetition – this bill will bring “more jobs, more jobs, more jobs, more jobs…” 4 times in 15 seconds.
What Business Speakers Can Learn & Implement: What part of your message is most important for your audience to remember, use and implement? Repeat it over and again so there is no doubt in your audience’s minds what they should do after your speech ends. Be clear. Be specific. And use the same language.
- YouTube Video Posted with Key Points Next to Speech: As you can see in the image with this post, shown with the original speech simulcast was a split screen image of the President on the left side of the screen and on the opposite side we could see the presentation of statistics, quotations from supporting experts, quotations of what the president said word for word, details of his plan, and more. His staff used a visual aid to support his main points during his speech and the technology offered through the use of video to have the same speech instantly available on YouTube along with the visual aid content. In case you did not see this in action, here it is now with the speech in its entirety:
What Business Speakers Can Learn & Implement: Make any visual aids you use completely compliment your speech. There is no need to write word for word everything you’re saying on your Powerpoint slides. Use the slides to emphasize your points, allowing your audience to read the slides on their own. Keep them brief. Further, USE VIDEO to support your message. Have your message available for your audiences to watch again after your speech ends. Provide ways for your audience to keep engaged with you using the technology available to you – which incidentally is the same technology available to the office of the president of the United States of America. That’s pretty cool stuff!
Now it’s your turn– without getting political, what do you think the President did that was effective or ineffective with his speech delivery and style and what can the rest of us business speakers learn from it?
It was like sitting in a sauna with 250 other people except with no pool or other way to escape the heat.
Am I talking about a tropical vacation destination? Hardly. I’m talking about my daughters’ school where there is no air conditioning and despite the calendar switching to September, summer decided to hang on with a vengeance with a near 100-degree day.
Last night my daughters’ school held the annual open house and it was HOT.
There we were: parents, teachers, and assistants, along with the one administrator, our new principal, all sitting on those gawd-awful metal chairs with parents eager to jump up and go visit our kids’ classrooms. And we were HOT.
The price of admission to meet our kids’ teachers and check out their daytime home away from home? Sitting through the speeches. Did I mention no air conditioning?
I personally was excited about hearing what our school’s new principal had to say. He’s young, enthusiastic, and has tons of exuberance. More importantly, over the summer within his first couple weeks of work, he pulled our little private school out of the dark ages finally implementing much-needed technology into the fabric of our school. He started a Facebook page as a way to connect with parents, established a standard email address system for all staff at the school (previously teachers had to supply their own personal email addresses to parents), and implemented a way for parents to see our kids’ grades and performance through a private online portal. This guy is going to be good. And I was happily anticipating his speech.
Typically at our open houses there are speeches from several folks starting with the principal and then volunteers in charge of various groups like our PTA, athletics, enrollment, etc. But this year it was just the new principal and the PTA president. So far so good. Here’s where the tale of two public speeches begins.
The principal was clearly prepared. He provided handouts, had a Powerpoint including an inspirational video, and despite the oppressive heat in the school gym, was wearing a suit and tie. He was out to make a great first impression. Here’s what else he did right:
- He began the meeting right on time, therefore respecting the parents and everyone who had made it to the meeting on time.
- His opening remarks were warm and engaging.
- He then set the stage for the rest of his presentation by including a preview to his speech: sharing his plan for the rest of his talk.
- Then he followed his plan. It was easy for us parents to follow along with his mission statement, the technological improvements for better communication, and his ideas about instilling life lessons of respect, achievement and others into our kids throughout the school year.
Even with all the great speech basics he followed it was clear he is not a professional speaker. And that’s ok. There were a few things he could have done better (isn’t that true for us all?). At one point he walked away from the microphone to point to the screen (which he didn’t need to do) and stayed away from the microphone for a bit too long making it difficult to hear. When he introduced the teachers, we parents weren’t sure if we could applaud for our kids’ teachers or not… in the past we were told to “hold applause” so this time some teachers got 1-2 claps and others later received more generous applause. He could have said, “feel free to recognize your kids’ teacher with applause” or “in the interest of time, hold applause til the end please.” However, those were mostly minor issues and the speech overall went very well.
Then he introduced one of the Moms, who is the PTA president.
Our PTA president is a wonderful selfless woman who volunteers countless hours to help our school. She is caring and wants to build our parent community. She has worked for years with no pay, little thanks, and even less recognition. But a speaker… she is not. A few things she could have improved upon during her open house speech:
- No preview: As parents in the audience we kinda thought she’d stand up, introduce herself and remind us that we are welcome to be in the PTA. She did. And added a LOT more with no real clue as to what it’d be or what was coming next.
- No plan: It didn’t seem like she had any notes and was speaking off the cuff. That’s ok for a quick “Hi I’m Mrs. So-and-So and we’d love you to join us at our PTA meetings once a month the 3rd Tuesday in the cafeteria…” but she obviously had some things she wanted us to know about. And she rambled…
- “One more thing:” She said this about 3 times before she wrapped up. If you’re going to say “one more thing” then only one new piece of info should be presented before you conclude.
- Lack of awareness for time: Some parents had several kids’ teachers to meet and were anxious to get going. Many of us had babysitters at home watching our kids so we could be at the open house. It was HOT. We were melting.
It’s difficult when you have to stand up in front of a room full of people and that’s not something you normally do. When you’re up there, and thoughts keep coming to you about something you know is important to your audience you want to get it out there. That why knowing and applying the basics of good public speaking is important..
Like the principal, you don’t have to be a professional. You can be passionate and knowledgeable. Both speakers at our open house certainly had those characteristics. What’s important to note in this tale of 2 speeches is how even in an less formal situation, just a few public speaking techniques applied properly can give your audience a positive experience instead of wondering when it’ll end.
Now it’s your turn: have you ever been wow’ed or surprised by a non-professional speaker at an event like a school open house? Or do you usually just wish it would end? Share your comments now!