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!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sharpening Your Points

Are you bludgeoning your audience?

Hitting them over the head with your point again and again, sentence after sentence, as if waiting for some light to go on over the head of the guy in the third row so you can move on?

Why You Do It

1. You aren't comfortable and confident enough with your material enough to let a point stand once you've made it.
2. You aren't sure the audience is getting it, and you assume its your fault.
3. You lose your place and restate the last point in an effort to buy time.
4. You don't edit your writing well enough.
5. You are a naturally verbose individual, and its always worked for you.

Why It's Bad

1. Audiences get bored when they continually hear the same thing over and over. 
2. Assuming the audience didn't get it insults their intelligence.
3. It doesn't allow you to pause after your point to let it sink in.
4. It eats up your time.
5. It lessens the impact of your points.

How to Avoid It

1. Write your speech, and edit for impact.
2. Pause! Use verbal periods. You are more likely to repeat your point if you feel you have to fill the air with your voice.
3. Practice more. If you don't get lost, you won't have to reset yourself as often.
4. Use an outline. Once your point is made, pause, then check your notes in the silence.
5. Improve your speech. Make your stories so powerful, your point can't help but be made, allowing you to be confident you have achieved your task.

When it's Okay

1. As a bookend. You start with your point, tell a story, then repeat the point.
2. As a summary in your close.
3. When you restate your point as a question. When done sparingly, this can add impact.

The better you are as a speaker, the more powerful your points become, and the smarter your audience will be. 

I could say more. But why? Speak and Deliver. 'Nuff Said. 


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