Friday, December 30, 2011

Toastmasters Friday: Toasty Resolutions for New Years'

It'd be easy to write a blog today suggesting you get your DTM, run for District Office, or even just finally finish that CL manual (or, for some of you, open it up!). Toastmasters is filled with awards for completed goals, and the organization does a pretty good job of motivating us any time of year.

Instead, I'd like to suggest we all resolve to take a few 'smaller' actions that will make us better Toastmasters, and have a little fun while we're at it.

1. Say 'Hi' to a guest, and actually chat with them. Some of us are great at this, others just sit back and don't interact at all. If you're the latter, step up!

2. Bring a guest. I've always been bad at this - partially because I don't actually work anywhere, and when I do, I don't really want any of the people I work with at TM. Maybe that's why I work for myself. Still, most of us have access to friends we can bring. Make this year the year you do it.

3. Stop canned Words of the Day or Table Topics. Get creative. Put some effort in and people might actually remember to use the WotD. Inventive Topics almost always beat questions from the card boxes. It's always nice to have resources to fall back on, but too often I see the fall back position act as the only position.

4. Prepare your speech in advance. More than, say, a day. Or an hour. Or as you sit their ignoring the speaker ahead of you. Push yourself to write your speech. Practice it 10 times before you give it in the preceding few days. You might amaze yourself.

5. Judge. Especially if you've been competing for a long time. Get out of the game and into the stands, and feel what its like on the other side. If you aren't a competitor, volunteer to judge to get your feet wet. Just make sure you go through training and are prepared to be objective.

6. Go to training, even if you aren't an officer. Some Districts are better than others at putting on events, but if you have a big TLI (Toastmasters Leadership Institute), go meet some new people and head to an ed session you wouldn't normally attend.

7. Visit 4 clubs you've never gone to before. That's one every three months. Participate. Even call ahead and see if you can give a guest speech. If you head out of state, or out of the country, make it a point to visit a local group of Toastmasters - they make great extended family. Consider having a 'Passport Contest' in your club - and see who visits the most outside clubs, in the most interesting locations!

8. Give a presentation from the Successful Club Series or Leadership Excellence Series. Or two. Please, please, please tailor them to your style.

9. Find out what your officers are doing. Volunteer to be the Sgt. at Arms, and set the room up in a new formation. Join a committee for the VP of PR. Attend an officer's meeting. Ask how much is in the Treasury. Take notes for the Secretary. Anything new!

10. Go to the International Convention. This is a big financial and time commitment, so its a bit of a stretch goal - especially if you choose to get their as a contestant. But it is worth seeing at least once in your life. The pomp and circumstance. The big stage. The people from all over the world. Treat yourself!

Maybe you're doing all these things. Great. What else can you do? Just do something new in TM this year. Keep it fresh for you and those around you. There's so much TM has to offer, and so few, if any, who have truly sucked all the marrow out of their TM life.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Speaking Forward in 2012

Yesterday, I took a look back at my goals for 2011. Today, as promised, it's time to look ahead to next year, and see what I can do as both a speaker and a coach in 2012.

1. Write my definitive keynote - and start giving it anywhere someone will listen. While I did not write this in 2011 as hoped, I've certainly nailed it down conceptually, and believe it can be written from rough draft to final form (and the final form is never final, right?), by mid-January.

2. Build Speak & Deliver from a blog to a full website experience, and significantly expanding its reach.

3. Coach/Mentor more speakers in 2012 than in 2011. A simple, achievable goal.

4. Use video, for speeches, marketing, and speaking tips on my blogs and websites. I'm not far off from making this happen, and believe it continues to be a realistic, and necessary, goal.

5. Attend Toastmasters regularly - join an Advanced Club - and never give a speech that isn't lending itself to my ultimate goals of speaking. TM is always a great workout for speakers, and my love for the organization hasn't waned.

6. Create audio products out of my speeches and coaching. This is a must to cast a wider net with my coaching than just those I can meet with personally or over the phone. There are only so many hours in the day, but audios can create hours that last forever.

7. Market & Network myself to a higher degree than ever before - we can always do better on this from year to year, one day at a time.

Goals from last year I won't be renewing:

1. Join the National Speaker's Association. I believe I'll visit, but joining doesn't seem reasonable for 2012. Visiting in '12 will likely lead to joining in '13.

2. Compete in the International Speech Contest. This will be easy to fulfill, since I've booked myself the weekend of my District Conference. Time to compete for bookings instead this coming year. I may compete again - only the future will tell.

New Goals for 2012:

1. Speak 50 times, outside of my Toastmasters environment. This is a stretch for me, I'll admit. But it can be done, and could actually be tripled if I really pushed. This is a transformation of thought and action that can push me past where I've been hovering for so many years. How many times will you speak in 2012?

2. Write my signature book. Despite writing three books on speaking, I've never written MY story, and its time for that to change. Look for it by Summer.

3. Promote my wife. She gave a great keynote last year up in Toronto, and should be speaking as often as I do. And she's already got a book!

What will your 2012 look like? Will you even set goals? In the end, creating a life we're happy with doesn't have to revolve around goals, as much as our goals should revolve around creating a life we're happy with.

Go out and make 2012 the year YOU Speak & Deliver!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Resolve to Speak & Deliver in 2012

Earlier this year, I 'Resolved to Speak & Deliver in 2011'. Looking back, how'd I do?

Here's my list of Speaking/Coaching Goals for 2011:

1. Write my definitive keynote - and start giving it anywhere someone will listen. (This did not happen, though I have a few false starts on my computer)

2. Join the National Speaker's Association (I have continued to put this off)

3. Attend Toastmasters regularly - join an Advanced Club - and never give a speech that isn't lending itself to my ultimate goals of speaking. (For the most part, this worked out until this fall, but not to the degree I had intended)

4. Coach/Mentor more speakers in 2011 than I have over the last 5 years combined. (This was a success! I've coached a ton of people this year, and am looking forward to new clients next year.)

5. Use video, for speeches, marketing, and speaking tips on my blogs and websites. (This didn't happen at all.)

6. Create audio products out of my speeches and coaching. (This didn't happen either.)

7. Compete in the International Speech Contest (Finished in the top 90 in the world this year, for the seventh time in ten years.)

8. Market & Network myself to a higher degree than ever before - this one is for all of us - nobody will hear or be helped by your message if they don't know who you are and where they can find you! (This was  a medium success)

Wow...on one hand, that can look a bit depressing. You might wonder why I would even share it with you, vs. letting it just get swept under the digital rug, buried with blog entries past. I'm sharing it because it's true, and because I bet a lot of you are looking at your goals right now and seeing everything you didn't get done too, and may be getting a bit angry and discouraged. Hey, it happens. Life gets in the way. We lose sight of our goals in the mire of the everyday.

Rationalization is an easy next step. Medical problems in my family. So little focus-time, it seems, with six kids around. New projects that came up. Even success gets in the way. If you want more coaching clients, guess what? They take time! Doing well in the contest takes time as well - I spent most of my summertime focused on winning the World Championship, followed by a rapid 'failure' in the first 36 hours I was there. Coming home brought with it some re-evaluation, and then re-evaluation of my re-evaluation. Rationalizations aside, I know I could have done more.

How 'bout you? Did you do EVERYTHING you wanted to do? Did you find unexpected obstacles? Unexpected success? Maybe 2011 was your best year ever. I hope so. Even if it wasn't, it's not the end of the world.

My 2011 found other successes for me in my relationship with my wife and family. I met a ton of people here in Denver. This blog tripled in traffic and content. It wasn't a perfect year. In some ways it wasn't even a good year. But it was a year I started to actively focus on 'Winning Anyway', which is my key message to the world. We can focus on losses and failures, or victories and accomplishments. We can say we didn't, or simply that we haven't yet. We can decide something won't work, or we can realize it won't work the way we're trying to do it, and look to do it Anyway, in a new way.

Many of my goals in 2012 are the same. I have some new ones I'll share tomorrow, and at least one I'm taking off the list. What will YOU be doing in 2012 to Speak & Deliver? Share your comments here or on Twitter and Facebook. And thank you for being a part of my Success Anyway, this year!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Toastmasters Friday: How Smooth is Your Choreography?

This week I attended my 11 year old daughters first Glee performance. Glee combines singing and dancing, teaching the kids to sing in combination with various moves, from spins to tumbles to catching each other to 'jazz hands' - all in sync with each other. As I watched them warm up, the director urged them to hit their marks cleanly, put emotion into their movements, and be sharp with their hand motions.

All of these concepts are important in speaking and, interestingly enough, are also important in our Toastmaster meetings.

I mentioned last week I was joining Solar Speak, a club that is in the process of rebuilding on a foundation of six members. In the last seven days, the club has been reactivated, and my membership in TM has been reinstated, after a whopping two weeks exile after not renewing with my old club.

Part of the club's goals were to hold better meetings. Most of the members had never seen a meeting outside our own, so our soon-to-be club coach arranged a demonstration meeting, bringing in Toastmasters from nearby clubs to hold a meeting 'by the book'.

I've been to over 100 clubs in my years as a Toastmaster, and close to 1000 meetings, and I thought last night was a terrific representation of a typical club experience. Two speakers,Topics, a humorist, club business, an ah master, a grammarian, a general evaluator (me) - all the pieces were there.

But its not the pieces that count. The club had experienced all of those before. It was how the pieces were choreographed that made the difference. The preparation, so everyone knew what they were doing. The agendas printed for everyone to keep track of the proceedings. The strong transitions from President to Toastmaster to Evaluator to Speaker, etc, that come from repeated practice.

All of these 'moves', when done with precision, create an organized meeting that shows our members, and especially our visitors, that we are committed to our performance. When they are done with semi-precision, they realize it's a place where we're all still growing. When there done with little or no precision, that's when we look disorganized and disinterested.

Two Moves to Pay Special Attention To...

- The Handoff. During the Glee concert, several kids had there own solo, and they had only one microphone to share. In Toastmasters, only one person controls the meeting at a time. When transitioning from one participant to another in front of the room, work to be consistent in what you do, whether you meet people halfway or make them come to the lectern. Do your best not to cross in front of them when you leave for your seat. Shake hands quickly, and with intention.

- The Switch-Off. One routine also had a the left side of the group sing a musical part, and then toss control to the other side for a different melody. In Toastmasters, we don't always move from ours seats, but instead deliver a report from where we are, while the Toastmaster, Table Topics Master, etc, stay where they are. If you are in control of the meeting, be clear who you are tossing control to, and signal them both verbally and with eye contact so as not to catch them off guard. Conversely, be ready to take it back. It's easy to forget to listen to one report while you are thinking of who you're 'pitching to next'

- Leader of the Band. The choreographer was at the performance, and you could see her going through the motions with the kids, perhaps to remind them of what's next. When you're in control of the room, you are not only in charge of the 'Handoffs' and 'Switch-Offs', you are responsible to lead the applause. If it isn't consistent, someone is getting slighted while the audience is distracted with something else. Once you start clapping, everyone else knows to do the same. Slipshod applause can make a meeting appear disorganized at best, or inadvertently vindictive at worst, to a visitor wondering if we don't like Sally as much as John.

Like any dance routine, there's wiggle room, from one Toastmasters club to another, and even from week to week within your own club. The Toastmaster can act as director and move some pieces around. You might try out different evaluation sheets from week to week. You can choose whether the Ah-master clicks during speeches or just during Topics and evaluations, or maybe not at all. While most clubs end up set into a certain routine, flexibility and spontaneity has its place as well.

The key factor in both routine and interpretive choreography is planning and preparation. How ready are your members for their next meeting? Do they know what to expect if you've changed something? Do you have your agenda/program finalized to give people some indication as to what's happening?
Practice made Sexy....probably not for Toastmasters...or Elementary school glee clubs!
There will always be part of Toastmasters that is unplanned. We're human, and life happens. But the more we practices our 'moves', the better we're able to handle those unfortunate trips, drops, and splats in our meetings. The higher we set our standard, the more likely we are to regularly reach a point of competency.

These may seem like basic Toastmaster moves. Not hard at all. ...And, no, they aren't. But just like the 5th and 6th graders in the Glee group I watched last week, it takes time to get everyone on the same page. The parts are not as challenging individually as they can be corporately, and consistently over time. But the more we put them into practice, the greater our 'muscle memory' becomes, and they become second nature.

When our meetings appear to be a group of individuals working in concert to achieve the same overall goals, our members will flourish, our clubs will remain strong, and we'll be ready to go out into the world to Speak...& Deliver.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What Did You Learn Today?

"My life is boring." 
"What do I have to talk about?"
"Nobody wants to hear about my trip to the grocery store."

You're right. We don't care what you did. We care about how it made you feel, how you affected other people in your life (even if was just the person bagging your groceries), and what you learned.

I make it a common practice with my kids after school to not only ask them what they did that day, but what they learned. I do this not only to keep tabs on their progress, but to help them get used to identifying and acknowledging the fact that they are indeed learning something.

What are you learning today?

A big part of my job with clients is helping them pull stories from their personal life to make a point, to build rapport, and even the playing field for the audience by using an accessible metaphor. Sometimes that means going far back to their childhood, other times we don't have to go any farther back than that morning.

I'm a big proponent of keeping a story log - a file on your computer (and external hard-drive, and on the cloud) where you keep news clipping, humorous stories, and important information you may use in the future as a speaker. The richest part of that story log, however, can come from your daily life.

How to Use an Activity Assessment to Build Your Story Log

1. Start a new document on your word processor (or, take out a piece of paper and an actual writing instrument), and write down EVERYTHING you did yesterday.

2. Once the list is done, ask yourself how you felt, and what you learned during each one.

3. Finally, ask yourself how you could relate those feelings and lessons to your next audience.

Here's a partial list of mine from yesterday:

A. Stayed home in the morning with my 4 year old daughter and 7 year old son (who was sick), while my wife went out to meet a friend from church, which she rarely does.

I learned again that the best laid plans are oft interrupted by the randomness of life. Riker is never sick, but him being home yesterday significantly changed my mindset from blogging (and playing Words With Friends) to hanging out with him, doing the extra laundry created by getting sick in the middle of the night (he was too polite to wake us up), and actually taking time to fold clothes, which I hate to do and usually let the kids tackle as part of their allowance.

How do you handle interruptions in your day, or a complete change of plans? We all have examples of handling it well and handling it not-so-well. It happens to everyone in every audience you have, and they will run into it no matter what they do, and it could potentially fit into most any speech topic you have. Doesn't mean you'll use it, but it's there, it's recent, it gives them insight to your personality, and it might be perfect to make your point about dealing unpredictable bosses, clients, and circumstances.

George Bailey knows: Don't wait til everyone disappears to appreciate your life!

B. My 15 year old daughter came home from school, said "hi" while I had my head down doing laundry, and I thought it was just a random "hi" from Riker. An hour or so later, Kristi came home and I asked if she'd seen Bailey, because she hadn't come home yet. It caused a brief moment of panic until Braden (our 14 year old son) said Bailey was in her bedroom. Bailey routinely hides to get out of chores, like any teenager, and neither of us had noticed.

I was reminded that I need to pay closer attention, and that sometimes its easy to lose track of things, and people who are important. I also realized how quickly Kristi and I felt our heart rates go up, and various scenarios came up in our minds during the 60 seconds our daughter was 'missing'. And it made me think of how frustrating teenagers can be!

Those lessons are enough for a speech unto themselves, and certainly lend themselves to everything from getting lost in a big project to ADD to parenting to remembering how important people are in every setting, but we sometimes forget until they go missing.

Keep in mind you can learn from others in your circle, as well. Just today Kristi and I were talking about how she almost cancelled going over to her friends house yesterday because Riker was sick. That thought triggered an even stronger thought - that Satan, or whatever negative universal force you'd like to call it, didn't want her connecting with a friend that day, and was presenting obstacles, which made her more determined than ever to go.

How can you take that attitude lesson and apply it to an audience?

What do you do if you don't have six kids? If you feel you really do live a boring life? First, I challenge you to do the list anyway. Who did you meet yesterday? If you stayed inside, why? What did you do? How did it make you feel?

The more you are in touch with your life, the events within it and your feelings about it, the better you will be able to relate to an audience on both the intellectual level and the emotional level. Remember, if an audience isn't touched emotionally, they are less likely to act on the intellectual information, even if that information is fantastic.

Don't just sit around - put on your hat and leather jacket and explore your world!

Finally, if you really aren't doing anything than sitting in front of your computer reading this blog....GET UP! Go DO something! Go see a part of your neighborhood you've never visited. Go eat somewhere new. Pick up your computer and go to the library or the coffee shop. Spice up your life so you can spice up your speech!

If the Activity Assessment seems formal, I understand. Do it anyway. Ask yourself what I ask my kids: What did you learn today? After a day or two, you'll be amazed how many stories you find. After a week or two, you won't have to do the assessment all at once, because you'll start recognizing events that matter more quickly. This Assessment will help you Speak & Deliver, and along the way, you just might finding yourself appreciating your life, and the people in it, more than you have in years.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

You Like Me? You Really Like Me?

Do You Have Sally Fieldesque Esteem Issues?

Last week, I talked about Walking My Talk, and speaking to a group on short notice. I graded myself out at 8 out of 10. A respondent suggested that while it was great I thought I did so well, how well did the group feel I did? Did I give out what Alan Weiss refers to as 'Smile Sheets' - feedback forms to get comments from the audience?

No, I did not. I rarely do, when speaking in front of an audience that is not made up of speakers. It's not that I don't believe in feedback. I definitely do, and wrote about how to use feedback effectively back in July. It's important, however, how you get it, and who you get it from.

It's not that regular audiences won't have something of value to say, it's that they don't have motivation to say it. They are there to learn something, at best. They may also be there to party that night - going to your session simply to look good to the boss. They are thinking of a million other things than how you are as a speaker. (One would hope you can at least get their mind on what YOU are talking about!) Unless the speaker is simply terrible, most 'Smile Sheets' will offer a mix of mostly complimentary remarks, a few harsh complaints, a couple of out-in-left-field whiners, and a few 'you rocked it, superstar!'.

If you are a celebrity, a Kardashian, or even a World Champion speaking to a Toastmasters conference, your 'superstar' percentage will jump. That results from a mix of skill and interest, as well as an expectation created. No one wants to be disappointed, and often people will give great reviews for mediocre performances just to make themselves feel better for being in the audience!

As the speaker, if I give out 'Smile Sheets', I'm giving my audience extra work that looks like I'm more concerned about me than them. Sure, I can offer to give away a book to a random audience member who fills a sheet out, but even that can look a bit shallow.

'Smile Sheets' are usually provided by the event planners, and even they are moving toward online surveys following the event in order to be less intrusive and more efficient (and, Green, I suppose). You might get to see these, you might not. Usually they are designed to benefit the planner - should they bring you back? Even then, some of the questions will be totally unrelated to you as a speaker, from food chosen to room temperature to length of breaks. They may ask if the topic was what they wanted to hear, which may have no bearing on how well you delivered your material at all!

If there are people in the audience who really have something of critical value to say, they will likely come speak with you themselves. If there are people who really have nothing to say other than a random gripe, they may also have the personality to come up to you, so be ready!

The most valuable feedback I received that day was from a couple of folks who said I changed they way they thought about how they presented themselves, and from the meeting planner who said she'd recommend me to the other chapters of their organization. That type of feedback beats a stack of 5 star reviews any day.  

We can't spend our lives as speakers desperate for the approval of every audience member. First, it'll never happen. Second, our being seen as a great speaker isn't even the main point. That isn't to say we shouldn't always be getting better, but it does mean that we shouldn't burden our audiences with grading us. You'll have a pretty good idea of how well you did when it's all said and done.

Save the 'Smile Sheets', feedback forms, and evaluations for Toastmasters and NSA. Their feedback will offer more diversity for you, and likely more criticism you can actually do something with, because they'll be more motivated to actually help you. That is, after all, what they do.

Speak & Deliver, and let the stars fall where they may. 

(Ironic PostScript: I now offer the ability for you to rate my blogposts below....)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Getting Hired to Speak: What's Their Why?

The self-help industry often focuses on the question "What's Your Why?", as in why do you want to succeed? It's a great question, and can help us find our ultimate motivations.

Yesterday, I talked about defining your speaking dream more specifically by deciding where you want to speak. I talked about making phone calls to meeting planners and event organizers. But what happens when you actually get to the stage of convincing them to hire you? What do you say? This is when you have to turn the "What's Your Why" question around.

What's THEIR Why? If you don't provide a good enough answer to this question, not only will you not get hired, you might actually create negative word of mouth about yourself.

Don't Say:

- How Great a Speaker You Are. You have no credibility, and they don't care anyway. Not yet.
- You're a Toastmaster/NSA Member/CAPS Member/Certified Awesomely Cool & Nifty Speaker with a Certificate You Paid Thousands of Dollars For. They don't care. Unless they are one too. Maybe.
- You're an Award-Winning Toastmaster/CSP/Hall of Fame Speaker. They really don't care. Unless you've won the Championship. Or couch it in a numerical fashion they'll understand, like 'ranked in the Top 100 Speakers (out of 30,000) in Toastmasters International in 2011'. Still, they probably don't care.
- You're Inexpensive. They care. They care that you aren't good enough to charge more.
- How Much Your Last Audience Loved You.
- You Won't Mention Their Recent Scandal. You just did.
- How Much Are You Paying? Let them ask what you charge. If they don't ask, but give you the engagement, send 'em a contract with your fee. That'll start the conversation.

Before you say anything, you should be asking questions. What topics do they need? What is the theme of the conference? What outcomes are they looking for from their audience? Once you have these answers, start selling your presentation first, yourself, second.

Do Say:

- I Have Experience With Whatever Their Answer Was. If you do, that is. Tell them a story. Tell them how you will get their audience to respond based on your experience.
- I Spoke to ABC Company About This Topic, Which Resulted In XYZ. As long as it's not a competitor. Or, as I've been reminded by several since I posted this, perhaps especially if it's a competitor. You'll have to gauge their hatred for the competition, perhaps offer it as 'they have something you don't' - depends on the topic. (Thanks to Matt Kinsey for being the first to say something on this). 
- You Entertain and Educate. Explain how. No one wants a bored audience.
- You Want to Talk to 3 or 4 People in Their Company. This lets them know you're willing to give them a customized session, and that you are more interested in what they need to hear than what you want to say.
- You Offer More Than a Speech. Breakout sessions, individual follow-up, a book they may want to see for themselves, and offer to their attendees.

These Do's and Don't's apply both to talking with the planner and email communications. With email, you can offer a bit more, including links to audio and video clips, your website, testimonials, and a contract attachment.

The most important thing to remember is they don't care about who you are (unless you are a celebrity), how good you think you are, or, for the most part, the hard-earned/paid for letters after your name. They care about what you can give them and their group. Before you start talking, start asking what they want/need. The new information. The inventive training. The feel-good outcome. Then transform what you do to what they need.

Once you know their why, you'll be able to say "Why YOU." That's when you go prove how awesome you can be when you Speak....& Deliver.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Where Do You Want To Speak?

It's not unusual for beginning speakers to wonder where all the speaking opportunities are.

What is also not unusual is a beginning speaker not even knowing where they WANT to speak. They have a topic, they want to speak to people, but they have no end in mind! At best I hear, "well, maybe colleges, or women's groups, or IBM".

If you don't know specifically where you want to speak, how will you ever get there? It doesn't mean you have to start there and only there, but knowing your direction, actually pursuing your targets, is going to get you closer to success than just thinking "I want to speak to some unidentified, nonspecific, random gathering of people."

Exercise #1

Make a list of 10 places you want to speak at anywhere in the world. Conferences, specific groups, colleges, companies. Go on the web if nothing comes to mind, and google companies, associations, or conferences. Come up with 10 identified audiences. Then do it again, but stay local. List 10 places that are within an hour's drive.

Exercise #2

Find someone you know on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn (or even, shudder, real life) who can get you some information, and find out about their events and who is in charge of them.

Exercise #3

Make a phone call to one of the 20, ideally a local event, but not necessarily. Not an email, but an honest-to-goodness phone call. If you have to leave a message, tell them you want to get information about their event. Don't wait for them to call back though, call them everyday until you get a live person. Leave a message every other day.

Once you can talk to them, ask them straight out if they are looking for speakers. If they are, great, let them know you'd like to help them. Use the word help - who doesn't want help? Let them know what you can speak about that relates to their audience, which you are now well versed on after your first two steps of research.

If they are NOT looking for speakers, tell them you would like to be available as a substitute if someone cancels, and then go into how you can help them. As I said yesterday, you never know when you'll be called on to speak. This works well for local events, as you can show up quickly, and be the local hero!

We'll go into what you need to next - answering the question of 'Why YOU', tomorrow. The goal today is to make yourself create some goals, to decide where you want to speak and to whom you want to speak. It's OK if your dream speaking opportunity is commencement at The Ohio State University, or the keynote at a technology conference, or a TEDtalk. It's OK if you just want to speak to the biggest rotary club in your town, too. Think how much easier crafting a message will be, how much easier building your credibility will be, once you've determined your audience!

No dreams are too big or too small, except dreams undefined. 

It may change over time, but at least start a list today, and go after it. Who knows? Next spring, you may be getting an honorary doctorate from Harvard, or sending people to the link of your TEDtalk, like Toastmaster Loy Machedo! Lay applied himself, used his network, and as you see in the video below, went out and hit the mark! I know another Toastmaster, who just last week called on a major university to speak at their commencement next spring, and generated interest he never imagined would exist. It doesn't happen if you don't know Where and Who you target is, and actually do something to connect you to them.

Who is YOUR dream audience? Let me know in the comments below, or on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Walking the Talk - My Turn to Speak & Deliver

Monday, I wrote about 'Staying Ready'. It's a great concept. One of those rules of speaking its easy to talk about, but hard to follow.

Tuesday (yesterday), I got a call from a meeting planner for a weekly sales group I was scheduled to speak to next week. Good follow up on her part, I immediately thought. Turns out, her speaker for TODAY had hurt themselves over the weekend, and she wanted to know if I could speak - in just a scant 19 hours. Not the shortest amount of time I've ever had, but its in my Top 10.

I could have said no, and all would have been fine. But really, could I say no knowing I had just told all of you to be ready for the spotlight?

She was thrilled, and I had some work to do. I admit I had the advantage of knowing what I was going to speak about, since I had worked on it for next week. My topic was Elevator & Networking Speeches, a speech/training I've given many times. So my content was fairly set. But it wasn't quite gelled for this group yet.

Here's how I got MORE ready than I already was:

1. The Introduction - I tailor my intro for each group. This was a group of salespeople who didn't know me well, so I went somewhat heavy and the sales background, not to brag, but to identify with them. I talked about my wife and kids, my clients as a coach, then complimented them by saying how much of a challenge it will be to coach them that morning, despite my track record of success. The intro, as a whole, was not much longer than this paragraph.

2. The Outline -

- Opening. Connecting with this group was crucial. Less than 10 in the audience, all well-seasoned in their industry. Instead of launching into a story, I asked a question - "Do you remember your first client", and let someone else tell a story. Then I bridged from their experience to my own. I got lucky, in that his experience mirrored my own opening story, but I was ready with a transition either way.

- SubOpening - After connecting with them, I needed to connect them with the content. Another question. What's the worst possible outcome you can get after introducing yourself in a networking meeting? I got several answers, then transitioned with my own.

- Content. This is a highly interactive presentation, where I critique their own opening comments from the beginning of the meeting when they introduce themselves, give them the structure for a speech, then work on 2 or 3 or their individual spiels to give them something to take away. The group also helps come up with material, in most cases. I covered the Twisted Opening, The Catch and Release, The Story, and The Command, all using their own material as examples.

- Bonus Content. I had some extra time, so I included a 5 minute segment on one-to-one networking.

- SubClose. This group had heard much of what I had to say before, so my goal was to man up to that, but put doubt in their mind about whether or not they were using what they knew, and challenged them to use what they knew, whether it was from me, or what I reminded them of learning before.

- Close. This is where I failed a bit. There was no clock, I didn't bring my watch, and I didn't designate a timer. This group, I learned today, claps you down when you hit time. Luckily, I had finished my subclose, so it looked natural. I had to interrupt my introducer (a friend, fortunately), to give them my overall call to action, and pass out my handouts.

3. The Takeaway - I don't like to give business cards, so I adapted my blogpost to a one page article, slapped Speak & Deliver, my phone and email, and an offer on the page, and handed them out. If I schedule more of these talks, I'll likely print up a tips card instead. But by writing as much as I do, I stayed ready to create a handout in under 10 minutes.

There you go. From theory to application. The talk went well this morning. I'd give it an 8 out of 10. Now the goal is to be ready for a 10, no matter how much time I have. At least you know I walk my talk - and if your group needs a speaker, even if its tonight, I'm ready to Speak & Deliver.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Speaking of Don't Get Ready, Stay Ready...

A great axiom I first heard from Craig Valentine. "Don't get ready to speak, stay ready." You never know when your moment in the sun will come. This young man was ready for his in October, 2010.

What can we learn from Sam Hollyman?

- Be Willing. Don't shy away, be willing to jump up and speak next time someone asks your opinion, has an open spot to fill, or gives you a shot at something you weren't expecting. False (or real) humility won't serve you here. Opportunities have a reputation for closing quickly on the meek.

- Know the Words. Be familiar enough with what you're known to talk about. Don't just talk about talking about it, talk about it! With your friends, co-workers, online, EVERYWHERE! Can you imagine if Sam didn't know the song? Crash, boom, bam!

- Don't be Intimidated. Sam, with all the exuberance of a teenager, belted it out. Remember when you were fearless? Be fearless next time you speak. Your confidence will give you power to sway your audience.

- Work Together. Sam was flexible, and took direction from Michael without, literally, missing a beat. Follow the lead of the person asking you to speak. Let them know you'll do whatever they need. Now is not the time to demand green M&M's in your dressing room.

- Make them Swear! OK, maybe we don't really want the audience shouting 'Holy S#1TBalls', but would it be so bad if they thought with that kind of excitement once you got onstage to speak? Start strong. Lead with your best material. You've got one chance to excite them from the start.

- Follow Up. Don't actually know what Sam is actually up to these days, beyond snubbing Britain's Got Talent. Where he goes from here is up to him. What will you do after your moment in the sun? Sit back and enjoy it? Or parlay it into more opportunities? Remember, every speaker is unemployed once they finish their last speech!

Once people know you can speak, they are going to ask you to speak. Stay ready to Speak...& Deliver.

Friday, December 2, 2011

What is Toastmasters Dogma?

Last week, in my Toastmaster's Friday post, I mentioned 'Toastmaster's Dogma'. I had a few people ask what I meant by that, so this week, I'm going to delve into it.

First, let's define 'dogma'. At, it's first definition is: an official system of principles or tenets concerning faith, morals, behavior, etc., as of a church. Synonyms: doctrine, teachings, set of beliefs, philosophy. It is also defined as a belief that is settled with certainty and conviction. It's also, of course, a rather fun movie with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

Dogma, in and of itself, is not a negative concept. It is often used negatively, usually in context with the abuse of principles and tenets within an organization. Dogma is repeatedly used in referring to cults and other oppressive, non-religious organizations with a strong, defined set of rules in its culture.

I deliberately used this word last week, despite its negative connotations, in concert with what is occasionally a negative practice - using Toastmaster's guidelines in an oppressive manner. That is, putting the culture of the organization ahead of the culture of the people in it. I had heard that an incoming coach was being a bit pushy when it came to applying TM standards. This didn't surprise me. After all, a coach typically is assigned because a club is NOT meeting standards, and in the instance, the club was hanging on by a thread.

Toastmasters is filled with a combination of rules, promises, guidelines, as well as traditions that are often confused for the previous three. As a large, worldwide organization that has existed for 80-plus years, this isn't surprising. For it to have lasted this long, in fact, it's most likely necessary.

How these rules, etc., are applied is determined by imperfect human beings. Some of us homo sapiens are more strict than others. From member to member, the firmness of these guidelines have more settings than a Craftmatic Adjustable Bed. As discussed last week, the result are a vast variety of club cultures.

Back to 'Toastmasters Dogma'. I believe the tenets of the organization are sound, and necessary to the overall health of the organization, and the individual clubs. I also believe there must be flexibility.

Copyright, most likely, Toastmaster International.

The dogma doesn't become negative until it infringes on the rights of an individual to say 'no' without recrimination. When one person or organization decides their goals are more important than their members goals (note: this works differently in a non-profit, volunteer run, personal development group than say, Microsoft). If I don't want to be your VP of Membership, it shouldn't mean you don't like me anymore. If my club doesn't want to be President's distinguished or send folks to training, it doesn't necessarily mean we need to be 'coached'. If we don't send a contestant to the Area Contest, it doesn't automatically mean we're a bad club.

Last night, I went back to the club in question from last weeks post. I still need a club to join, and this club fits my schedule and my geography. That, and I wanted to see if the 'Toastmasters Dogma' was as bad as I had been told by the incoming coach.

Turns out, they were back to deciding whether or not they were going to remain a club. The coach was there, but didn't inject himself into leading the discussion, but was more of a resource on technical questions. The club has let its dues lapse, so there is technically no club, but TI is giving them some time to regroup. They had 3 members there (ice kept at least 2 others home), the coach, and me. They needed three officer names to give TI, IF they were going to continue.

The new club leader, a fairly new TM, showed enthusiasm for both the club continuing, and for Toastmasters goals & ideals (or dogma, but with a more positive connotation?). He was going to be president. The second member wanted the club to continue, and was willing to be 'whatever' to fill the need. He's also very new to TM. The third member was the old president, who had to drop out for awhile due to commitments with his company (as in HIS company, not where he works). He seemed willing to be a member, but realized his limitations and stepped back from being an officer.

The club coach couldn't be an officer, because you can't be a coach and a member until you're a coach first, and you can't be a coach until the club actually exists and approves you as a coach. I went through this back in the Spring when I was going to be the coach. Complicated dogma, but reasonable.

That left me. Was I going to commit to this club? More importantly, COULD I commit to this club? I was thinking throughout the discussion about my time commitments, what I could to be a useful member, weighing the level of commitment from the folks there. I didn't want to start something that was just going to collapse in another few weeks.

By the end of the night, I was name Vice-President of Education as well as Public Relations, based on my experience with TM, the small size of the club (which means VPE won't be too tough, to start), and my strong desire to handle PR.

The club seems to be back in line with the 'dogma', in a very positive sense. The coach didn't seem overly dogmatic, and I'm fairly certain the five of us there can provide enough push and pull between dogma and humanity to keep the club lively but still effective. Hey, they may even meet the DCP requirements within a year, like the coach needs to get his credit.

But what's most important, in my eyes, is not that they become a great Toastmasters Club because the 'dogma' is met, but that the members realize how much better the overall experience can be when they don't ignore the 'dogma' altogether. We homo sapiens need structure, as long as the structure isn't used to crush us.

So there you go. That's what I think of 'Toastmaster Dogma'. It should neither be a toy poodle or a Doberman, but perhaps simply a Toastmaster's loyal friend. As far as 'dogma' itself? It's positivity or negativitiy is only what you make it.

By the way, if you're near Broomfield, CO, and want to visit a Toastmasters group back on the rise, come out to Solar Speak, 7:00 pm Thursdays at Sil Tehar Motors, 150 Alter St. Park below, go up the stairs on the side, enter and find the elevator in the back, and go to the second floor. We'll be happy to see you!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

When the Audience Isn't the Most Important Factor

I've said it often in this blog, and every speaking coach I know says it without fail: The most important person to think about when speaking is your Audience.

Except, when it's not.

WHAT? Sacrilege Rich! We're pulling your coaching card and sending you to the penalty box! How could you say such a thing?

It's easy, actually. Because the audience isn't always hiring you. If you don't please the buyer, what the audience thinks doesn't matter. You won't get hired again, you won't get a referral, and who know how many future clients won't hire you because they are connected to the person you just disappointed?

5 Times the Audience Isn't Most Important

- Corporate Shifts - persuading buy-in for negative or positive changes
- Sales - representing a sponsor, such as a non-profit or event investor
- Endorsements - promoting a candidate or cause
- Schools - pushing a faculty or administrative agenda, or even a moral agenda
- Training - preparing the group to perform a task to equal competence

In all of these cases, you may not be all that popular with the people you are speaking to, and in fact, you may be helping to identify audience members that need to be sifted out of the organizations. Your buyer's agenda beats the audience's need, and you need to keep in mind 'who's boss'.

This does not mean the audience isn't important, of course. They still come in a strong second. As a speaker, you should have their best interests at heart, and help them acquire the information and/or reach the conclusion the buyer needs them to reach - quickly, easily, and positively.

What happens if you don't agree with what the buyer is doing? Or if a school wants you to talk about moral behavior that doesn't align with your own? Or you aren't really behind the person you're asked to endorse?

In that case, the most important person in the speech becomes YOU. You have to decide what's more important: a check, or your integrity.

The audience is always an important component, and your speech must have them in mind. But if you aren't speaking the language of your buyer, you may quickly find yourself without buyers altogether.

Just For Toastmasters:

There's one more case where the audience isn't the most important. Toastmasters. Yes, it's true. When you give a speech in your club, YOU and the skills you are learning are most important. The audience comes second. You may be practicing for work, a topic that no one in the room cares about but you. You may need to focus on your gestures for a speech, and give a talk about golf that even you don't like, but it helps you stretch. While you don't want to deliberately offend, use Toastmasters speeches for YOU first, the audience second. Because the more you work on YOU, the better you'll do for them, and for your non-practice audiences, in the future.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How Fresh is Your Speech?

A quick check of tells me which movies are Fresh right now, in the eyes of the critics.

The Muppets - 98%
Hugo - 96%
Tower Heist - 69%

On the other hand, there are a few Rotten Tomatoes out there as well:

Happy Feet 2 - 42%
Twilight: Breaking Dawn - 26%
Jack & Jill - 4%

Movies rank on the freshness scale based on their critical reviews from a wide variety of reviewers, from Roger Ebert to your local 11 year old blogger.

I enjoy Rotten Tomatoes, because it seems to be a more accurate barometer of a film's value than just 2 or 3 reviewers.

How fresh are you? If your audience were to rate you on your entertainment value, where would you rank? How about originality? Are you offering enough twists and turns? Do you offer a surprise now and then, that changes the audience's perspective?

It's all right to keep talking on the same topic, and even tell the same stories, as long as your audience keeps changing. Consider that your speech's 'first run' in the theatres. How many people are willing to hear your message again? How many are willing to buy it in book form, or on DVD/CD/MP3?

If you're putting out a remake of another speech, say updating what old speakers have said for years, as Tony Robbins did, are you original enough in your presentation to justify hearing? Are there enough new viewers of your type of material that you can recreate a speech shot for shot, as they did with the Psycho remake a few years back? Or are you willing to reboot and revitalize your material, bringing it new life through your eyes, and up to date storylines, a la the Star Trek movie in 2007?

In the movie world, there are only so many plot formulas, but they keep churning out film after film. The freshest films either evoke memories of films past (The Muppets) or give us new ways to look at old ideas (Hugo).

No matter what you speak on, someone else has spoken on it before you. What are you bringing to your topic that your audience can't get from anyone else? New information? New examples? At the very least, a new type of delivery?

5 Strategies to be a Fresh Speaker!
(No, not THAT kind of Fresh.) 

- get plenty of feedback, and actually apply some of it to your next presentation
- read the news, and be on the lookout for a new application of an old topic
- know your competition, from your predecessors to your contemporaries, and stand apart
- present with a style and a set of stories that can only come from you
- put yourself on film, and be ready to send the 'rotten' parts of your speaking to the cutting room floor

The world needs fresh speakers just as much as it need fresh movies. Be Fresh, & Deliver!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Speaking Like Tim Tebow

I admit it - I'm a big Tim Tebow fan. It helps that I live in Denver. It also helps that he appears to be a pretty nice guy with a value system that's fits nicely with my own. But there are bigger reasons - reasons that, if you stay with me a few lines, can make a difference in your success or failure as a speaker.

As an NFL quarterback, Tim is not considered prolific. He doesn't pass for 300+ yards every game, he doesn't have a pretty throwing motion, and he's more apt to run than step up in the pocket and find an open receiver when he's under pressure. He'll never be compared to Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. But since he's taken over as QB for the Denver Broncos, he's taken them from 1-4 to 6-5, and in a position, however unlikely, of making the playoffs.

If you haven't heard of Tim, or 'Tebowing', or seen Tebow Time take over at the end of games, that's OK - its not required. All you need to really understand is that Tim is a Winner. Not because he wins games (though he does), but because he plays to win, he works to win, he believes he will win, against all odds and despite every naysaying coach, owner, analyst and opponent.

Great Rich - you love Tebow, you big, Bronco-loving freak. Why should I care?

Because if you approach speaking the way Tebow approaches football, you'll succeed. You many never be Zig or Tony or Brian Tracy or Patricia Fripp, but you'll inspire people. You'll make a living (a good living). And you'll be better every week.

"Tebow believes in what he believes in. It's amazing. 
He doesn't change for anybody. He's the same 24/7. 
I've witnessed it on tough days, cold days,
he's the same every day. W
hat (Tebow) has his mind-set on is going to work. And it does."
 Excerpt from the Denver Post interview with Von Miller, Broncos defensive star.

How hard are you working on your speaking? REALLY working? How many calls do you make to get scheduled as a speaker? How much film of yourself do you watch? How much writing are you doing? Do you have a coach? Do you have folks on your team you can count on?

How much do you believe in yourself and what you are doing? Tim Tebow shows such a high level of belief, not just in his faith but in himself and his teammates that they believe in him, the fans believe in him, and more and more of the football world is believing in him every day.

How would it feel if your audiences believed in you as much as you believed in yourself? Here's the scary part...if you don't believe in yourself, do you think any of them will?

Turn your back on every doubter, every critic, and every excuse. Practice, practice, practice. But don't sit in the locker room. Get out there on that field and take a snap. The only way to win is to get in the Speak, & Deliver!

My 4 yr old, Tebowing.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Toastmasters Friday: Who Are You?

Do you know who you are as a Toastmaster? Do you know who your club is?

Back in September, when I left my home club, I planned on heading to another to help coach it from within. I had originally been set up to be it's 'Club Coach' earlier in the summer, but first it didn't have enough members to stay a club, and when they finally did pay the minimum dues, I was no longer eligible since I wasn't a member of another club, and a Coach cannot start out as a member. Complicated. So my intention shifted to simply joining the club, perhaps be a mentor of sorts.

This particular club had a very independent identity. They didn't really care about Toastmasters on a larger level. They enjoyed getting together and following the Toastmasters structure, but not about the Distinguished Club Program (DCP), per se, or gaining a lot of members. At one point, their president even said they didn't want to grow to 20 members (what TI considers the minimum number for a healthy club) because it would limit speaking opportunities.

I ended up not joining this club, mostly because I knew I couldn't really DO anything for it. They were comfortable being who they were. They have since considered disbanding, which was followed by the District coming in with a new coach in an attempt to save it. What I have heard from my contacts since is that at least two of the driving members have left the club, not wanting to deal with the 'Toastmasters Dogma' - that is, being a legitimate TM club.

I've seen clubs like this in the past. Some are longtime clubs that have become social get-togethers for a select few, some are corporate clubs. Typically, as long as they stay charter strength, they are left alone. I suppose that could lead to a discussion about whether TI cares more about the dues than the nature of the club, but that's not really the point of this post.

Each of the 13,000 clubs throughout the world is different. I've only attended 100 or so across North America, but every one has its own flavor, its own culture, even as they all follow the basic Toastmasters structure of speak and evaluate.

Some are 55 minutes of tight-run efficiency (usually because members have to get back to work, and the membership is 100 percent working professionals), others are two hours of laid back fun (usually an evening or weekend club with a mixed membership).

We have prison clubs, clubs at monasteries and convents, clubs at Microsoft and Bank of America, clubs that meet at drinking establishments and IHOPs. We have executives, entrepreneurs, students, stay-at-home moms, retirees as members, and those descriptions just scratch the surface.

Who is YOUR Club?

In a western american city, there's a club for 'Adult Topics', which I've heard TI considered stepping in to police. Here in Denver, we have a club that is extremely political in orientation and they are expanding. Heck, there are some clubs built for 'Singles Only' - what goals might those members have?

What is OK for a club? I assume Orgy Toastmasters will never pass the litmus test, but how far can clubs push the envelope? If a club has paid enough dues, will they just be left alone?

Should the goals of Toastmasters trump the goals of the members of an individual club? Should the goals of the member trump those of TI, as long as it maintains charter status, and doesn't do damage to the reputation of the organization? What's the line, both for clubs and individuals? Perhaps these questions are better suited for the internal Linked In conversations.

The more important question may be, are they a club in which YOU can be successful? Are you able to meet your goals, whether they be speaking, leading, social, or otherwise?

The club I spoke of to open this post may survive, but it will likely look nothing like the club did a few months ago. Within the realm of TI, it will be a success. For the individual members who liked what they had, it will not. Is the lesson for clubs: if you want to be who you want to be as a club, at least be successful enough with membership that you can stay under the radar?

At the moment, I am a man without a club. Technically, I am not a Toastmaster.  The last 8 weeks without TM meetings (other than a District Conference I was asked to speak at) have been both cleansing and clarifying. I'll find a club soon enough, one that fits my time and geographic requirements, one that will allow me not to be too dogmatic about branding but still let me be a contributing factor. Toastmasters is in my blood, so I'd like to think I'm a TM regardless, as I write this.

Are you making the most of your Toastmaster experience? I believe, in general, that the TI method, the leadership and communication models, the DCP, even some of the dogma, will serve most members most of the time. So I am not suggesting the best clubs are the ones who ignore significant aspects of the program. The successful clubs I've been a part of balance TI practices with the individuality of the group.

My job is to find a Toastmaster club that will work for me again, and one that I will work for. What about you? Are you the right person in the right place? Should you be adding another club to the mix, moving to another club, or even starting a new club to fit your needs (if there are enough others whose needs match yours)?

Know your club. Know yourself. The better you know both, the better you'll be able to Toastmaster...and Deliver.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What This Speaker is Thankful For...

2011 has been a good year for me as a speaker and a speaking coach - but virtually none of the good would be possible without so many of the following items and wonderful people:

- I am thankful for my friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter, plussers on Google+, connections on LinkedIn, and, of course, everyone who has publicly and privately followed Speak & Deliver.

- I am thankful for BeauJo's Pizza, which gives me a place to reward myself after a job well done.

- I am thankful for Joe Sabah, who, even in his '80's, gives back so much to speakers. It's a privilege to have  the ability to interact with him here in Denver.

- I am thankful for my fellow speaking coaches, who encourage me through their success, including, but not limited to, Lisa Braithwaite, John Zimmer, Olivia Mitchell, and Avish Parashar.

- I am thankful for the four women who lended their insight into Speakers: Find Your Roar - Felicia Slattery, Maureen Zappala, Sheryl Roush, and Laura Stack - it's a great resource for women looking into the speaking business because of YOU.

- I am thankful for Chris Brogan, who retweeted a link to my post about him just once, and sent 1300 people to my blog in a day.

- I am thankful for Tim Tebow, just because.

- I am thankful for those in my Speaker's Mastermind Group, who have helped keep me on track this year. Shout out to the Butterfly Herder for organizing it!

- I am thankful for Toastmasters, an organization I joined 16 years ago which helped turn me into a better speaker, and sparked my passion for speaking and helping others become better speakers

- I am thankful for my home District of Toastmasters, 26, for supporting me in my run at the World Championship of Speaking this year - maybe I didn't win the trophy, but Top 100 for the 7th time in 10 years ain't bad.

- I am thankful for the tightknit group of friends (you know who you are) that masterminded and coached me as I spent my summer preparing a speech that was never given on the Big Stage, but was still shared with hundreds of people over a two month period - and Dwayne Windham, who chaufeurred me around at the championship, and gave me a place to stay!

- I am thankful for Darren LaCroix, who encouraged me after my 'defeat' in Las Vegas, and continues to be an inspiration for me, even if he probably thinks I ignore everything he says. (I don't.)

- I am thankful for District 2 out of Seattle, who invited me to speak at their conference this year, and treated me like a Champion.

- I am thankful for Blogger, Dreamhost, my trusty old copy of FrontPage, Audacity, Google Phone, my FlipCam, Google Docs, and OpenOffice, all of which make my job as a speaker and coach easier.

- I am thankful for my DVR and Netflix, both of which allow me to unwind on my own terms, within my own, obnoxiously busy schedule.

- I am thankful for my clients, whom I will not name, because I don't 'coach and tell' - and you'll know who they are once they are rich and famous, and give me some love in their books.

On a more personal note, I have to thank my wife, Kristi, and my six kids, for putting up with my commitment to entrepreneurship, despite the fact it has yet to make me a billionaire.

I am thankful for the Children's Hospital, who has treated my oldest daughter Bailey this year as she battles the tumor in her brain.

I am thankful for all the doctors and therapists who have treated my wife, and three of our six children who have Neurofibromatosis. As a progressive disorder which reacts differently in each, our family battles tumors, fibromas, Scoliosis, hearing and vision challenges, learning disabilities, and a virtual parade of doctors appointments each week.

I am thankful for my Crosstimbers Church family, There With Care, Make-a-Wish, and the Starlight Foundation, all of whom have taken care of important needs at various times, and provided encouragement and friendship during some of the hardest of times.

And of course, I am thankful for YOU, my reader. 

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, take time to be thankful - and share, if you wish, what YOU are thankful for in a comment below. Then, go out and Speak....& Deliver!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Speaking of the Thanksgiving Toast

Illustration, of course, by Norman Rockwell
There's nothing like Thanksgiving dinner, at least here in the United States. Whether you're feasting on Turkey or Tofu, its a time of joy, football, and family fellowship.

It's also time for a traditional toast. You might think toasting is only called for at a wedding, but why not raise your glass in honor of the 50 other people gathered at your house armed with yams, green bean casserole, and striped Jell-O filled with green grapes? A perfect opportunity to test your mettle as a public speaker, without the stress of 200 eyes on you and a once in a lifetime moment in the balance.

A. Plan It. Prepare for it ahead of time by practicing at home. Let the host know in advance, even a few days in advance, that you'd like to toast the day. Let them announce you. If you're at your house, at least warn your spouse what you're about to do.

B. Full Attention. You may see it on TV, but hitting your glass to call for quiet can lead to a major disaster in real life. Set the dinner up so everyone sits at the same time, or, if you're having it buffet-style, wait until all are seated with their first round. Its OK if a few have started eating, or even left to get seconds. A Toast isn't a prayer, it can happen at any time. Just stand, raise your glass, and say "I'd like to propose a toast". Soon, the group will quiet and start staring at you.

If not, look at the loudest person there, and ask "Uncle Larry, would you help me get everyone's attention? I'd like to prepare a Toast." He'll likely be glad to oblige, and be the center of attention for a moment.

If they still won't listen, sit down and wait for the Tryptophan and alcohol to kick in. Either they'll be docile enough to listen, or you'll be too sleepy/woozy to care.

C. Be Thankful. It's Thanksgiving, after all. You're thankful for your guests, your ability to be with family and friends, and hopefully most of the food. If you're toasting an individual, tell a brief story illustrating why you are toasting them.

D. Beware Humor. Much of what we consider humor today is steeped in sarcasm, back-handed compliments, and public embarrassment. Now is not the time to accidentally, or purposefully, hurt someone's feelings or raise the level of a 20 year feud.

E. Be Short. Most toasts are simply one or two sentences. If you're going over 2-3 minutes, you're likely going much longer than you need to, and needlessly creating antsy guests who are all beginning to think "Okay, already. Shut up!" Not the best mood for a toast.

If it's on honoring toast for a deceased (or soon to be, I suppose), and you're reminiscing a bit, you could stretch it to 4-5 minutes, as long as you're telling an interesting or beloved story. Just don't let it last long enough to be their eulogy.

F. Signal the Drink. Restate who you're toasting after the body of your toast, with a final, closing honor. Lift your glass high, and conclude. "To Aunt Bonnie, and her world famous candied yams!" Take a small sip, and sit down.

Your Toast may lead to other toasts, so set a good example. Don't make it about you, or soon there will be a litany of folks congratulating themselves on their great sales year, weight loss, or new Corvette. (Although, if you're a motivational speaker, this could be a good self-esteem building exercise.)

A Toast should be an honoring, unifying event. And with the mix of in-laws, soon-to-be ex-husbands and wives, and teenage daughters who have brought their tattooed, pierced, leather jacket-wearing boyfriend of the month to dinner, honor and unification is something to be thankful for.

Toast....and Deliver!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...