Monday, April 28, 2014

Speaker Leader Champion - Book 13 of 52 in 52 Weeks - A Review

There's been a lot of hoopla around Ryan Avery & Jeremey Donovan's new book, Speaker Leader Champion - Succeed at Work Through the Power of Public Speaking, not in small part to Avery's attempt to set a Guinness World Record of Most Books Signed earlier in April. In fact, I purchased the book as part of the record-setting attempt.

It's also a big deal because most Toastmaster's World Champions don't have their own books, much less books that are published by a 'real' publishing house such as McGraw-Hill, and certainly not this fast. Avery's strategic choice to team with Donovan, who is also the author of How to Deliver a TED Talk, no doubt figured into the success of this book, and is a good lesson for the rest of us looking to break into the publishing world.

As I read through, I have to say I wasn't sure how much of the content was Avery and how much was Donovan. I reviewed Jeremey's book 'How to Win the World Championship of Public Speaking' last July, and Speaker Leader Champion read like an expanded 2nd edition, as they used World Championship Speeches to illustrate most of their 92 Speaking Tips, and interviews with the Champions themselves to add 44 Speaking Insights.

Let me say this straight away - I enjoyed the book, and much of it's content is spot-on, useful, well-illustrated, and will benefit the reader. The book works very well for readers who are Toastmasters, as so much of it is set in the TM competition venue, and if you want to compete, it's filled with gold throughout.

David Brooks, Lashunda Rundles, Mark Brown, & Darren LaCroix
are among the championship speeches in the book.
The 11 Chapters cover 'Selecting a Topic', 'Telling Stories', 'Using Humor', 'Amplifying Emotional Texture', and 'Getting in the Speaking Zone', and, of course, more - all using the Champs trophy-winning speeches as the proof of most of their points. They include the full scripts of several winning speeches, which makes this the first book I know of since I published Win Place & Show to include the entire copy of a WCPS Speech - in this case, three speeches each from the top three winners in 2006, including Ed Hearn's 'Bounce Back', which is mentioned but not reprinted in Avery and Donovan's book.

There is also a chapter on 'Designing Compelling Visual Aids', which, other than a bit of a tip of the hat to David Henderson's flight jacket and goggles, seems thrown in simply to satisfy the non-TM reader, as 'Big Stage' winning speeches rarely use props or visual aids at all, much less PowerPoint, Keynote, or Prezi.

Toastmasters, particularly those who compete, are going to love this book. If you're a non-Toastmaster reader, however, you'll have to filter through the competition-speak and mentally transfer the concepts to your speaking world. That may serve as a bit of an obstacle for 'real-world' readers who have never stepped foot into a Toastmasters club.

The book title offers two promises it fails to keep, in my opinion, as well. While 'Leader' is in the title, the book doesn't really touch on leadership, or how speaking lends to leadership. While both authors may be leaders, I don't leave with any ideas to make ME a leader. The words 'leader' and 'leadership' don't even show up in the Index.

In addition, the subtitle 'Succeed at Work Through the Power of Public Speaking' seems to be merely a way to pander to a corporate audience, as little in the book directly relates to speaking in the workplace, technical presentations, sales presentation, or even CEO speeches, beyond a quick mention of Steve Jobs in the opening chapter. While the tips in the book do transfer over to 'real world' speaking, HOW they transfer is only occasionally explained, and the benefit of becoming a better speaker in the workplace is given short shrift.

The authors do a fantastic job of dissecting the speeches themselves, and highlighting how their methods can become our methods, from Ed Tate's use of humor to Lance Miller's use of story to the stark differences between most of the Champion's speeches and Jock Elliott's 2011 winner, which was more subdued and 'old-style' that the others.

Still, a final disappointment came in their discussion of David Henderson's 2010 Championship speech. The analysis of David's speech is spot-on, discussing his use of emotion and his simplification of Sickle Cell Anemia for the audience - but leaves out an important point - that for all the emotion of his friend dying, that story was a fiction, the friend didn't exist, and therefore was more emotional manipulation, rather than true emotional storytelling.

An argument can be made that this doesn't harm the reader. Perhaps. But I also believe that discussing the issue of honest storytelling would have been extremely helpful to the reader. For more on this case, you can read my own blogpost on the matter here: The Speaker's Trust. Whether they made an active choice not to discuss this aspect of David's speech, which he openly admits, or simply didn't research it, is unknown.

Despite the aspects where I feel Speaker Leader Champion falls short, overall the book offers a great deal of value, and I do recommend it. Strongly, for Toastmasters - 4 1/2 out of 5 stars, a little less so for the regular reader - 3 1/2 stars.

What I hope to see next out of the 2012 champion is a bit of what I had hoped to get out of this book. That is, a book from his perspective, about his life, his experiences before Toastmasters and after, and what he has learned himself as he has launched his career. I want more Ryan, and less Champs. If his past record of producing content is any indication, I have high hopes that his next book, and hopefully more of HIS story, isn't far from being available to those of us who want to see the Real Ravery shine through.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Most Boring Speaking Advice in the World

If you've been in a speaking class, a training room, a Toastmasters club, or even worked with many speaking coach, you've heard the following advice:

Tell them what you're going to tell them.
Tell them.
Then Tell them what you've told them.

Makes sense, right? Repetition is good, isn't it? Prepare your audience, educate your audience, then make sure they've got it - and got it good. Indeed, this advice is as old as Plato and Socrates, and probably goes back to the age of cavemen.

It's not the worst advice in the world, especially if you're a trainer, teacher, or drill sergeant. In fact, the military uses this method to repeatedly reinforce orders to its ranks. Certainly, if you're a new speaker, it's a competent way to structure your speech, and helps both you and your audience stay on track.

It's also BORING. Predictable. Easy to tune out. Potentially condescending to your audience, for whom the need for repetition has been replaced by the need for new information every 7-10 minutes, thanks to today's steady stream of media and information overload.

Which is why I say you should IGNORE it - at least in it's most rigid sense. Telling them three times is fine, as long as you do it in very different ways each time, and change the way you deliver the goods. What to do instead? Well, there are plenty of options, actually. I'll start with my favorite keynote outline, from Judy Carter's 2013 book The Message of You:

Start with a Hook - something related either to your point, your audiences self-interest, or otherwise builds a connection with the audience. Stories, controversial statements backed up by evidence, or even a question followed by a scenario are three easy bets to bring your audience into your speech without immediately 'telling them what you're going to tell them'.

Then go into a Premise. Their pain, their problem, their situation in need of fixing. The 'why', not 'what' of what you're going to speak about.

Throw in a dose of Credibility - how you can identify with their pain, either personally, or as an interested third party. The more they feel you're one of them, the more ready they'll be to to listen.

Then get into your Promise- the ultimate resolution that you're promising to tell them about. It's as close as you'll come to 'Telling Them What You're Going to Tell Them'. What you're actually doing is telling them three more important things first - why they should pay attention, why they need a solution, and that a solution exists.

Then you head into a Process - steps to solve their problem, followed by a personal story of how this process has worked for your or those around you. Then and only then do you get into 'reinforcement mode' and review what you've told them, before finally telling them the big, over-arcing point one last time.

This isn't your only option, of course. Depending on your situation, your outline can take many forms:

Cam Barber offers his own 'speech outline
generator' at his blog
Above, he chunks down Steve Jobs
Stanford commencement speech,
where Jobs doesn't fully tell them what
he wants to tell them until the very
end of the address.
Chronological - take the audience from beginning to end in order of events. Just be sure to cap off the ending with your take-home message.

Testimonial - a story that introduces and solves the problem in and of itself, allowing you to get your point across without hitting them over the head. Often, the heroic nature of the resolution in stories of this nature mean you don't wrap up at the end either, you just spin your tale, and let the conclusion sink into your audiences mind.

Anecdotal - perhaps you don't really even have a point to the speech other than to educate the audience or lift up an individual. Re-living stories makes for entertaining and honoring speeches, particularly if you're stuck in a classroom or at the long table of a wedding celebration.

Reverse-Engineered - Start with the ideal scenario, the fulfilled promise, then build the story of getting there.

I'm sure there are more, and if you can think of one, please add it in the comments below.

The right structure is key to your presentation's success, and regardless of which you choose, should always serve the audience's best interest, not your own. Getting them interested is key, which is why I, as a general rule, prefer starting by letting them know not WHAT I'm going to tell them, but WHY.

Each presentation is different, and each audience. I'm not saying NEVER to use the Tell Them What You're Going to Tell Them method, just that it isn't the end-all, may not be the most effective approach in every case, and could potentially be detrimental depending on the occasion.

Be creative, and then go Speak...& Deliver!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Book 11 of 52 in 52: The Media Training Bible - Brad Phillips

The Media Training Bible was not on my original list of 52 Books in 52 Weeks, but when I was given a chance to read & review it, I couldn't pass up the chance. Speaking with the media takes a skill-set beyond public speaking, much like being a newspaper writer is different than a novelist. In addition, it's a skill I'm still working at mastering, as anyone who has heard an occasional long-winded podcast interview with me would know.

Brevity and clarity are the two over-riding themes in the book, and Phillips has laid the book out in an ideal format - 101 tips, each just two pages. He provides short examples and case studies, including corporate, celebrity, and political examples as needed, but doesn't overdo it - ultimately sticking to exactly what we need to know.

His eight sections help the reader go exactly to the spot they may need in the moment, making the book a valuable resource for last-minute reminders and preparation.

Section I: Eight Ground Rules For Dealing with the Media

Covers the rule of thirds, deadlines, no comments, going off-the-record, and your rights as an interviewee - and serves as a set of 'caution lights' for anyone not quite sure what they are getting into with a reporter.

Section II: Message and Message Supports
One of the main reasons we talk to the media is to get OUR message out, but it isn't their responsibility to do so - it's our responsibility to make sure all we communicate is the message we want out there. Developing that message, and delivering it properly is covered in his CUBE A method - Be Consistent, Unburdened, Brief, Ear-Worthy, and Audience Focused.

Section III: The Interview
There's a difference between offering soundbytes and sitting down for a full interview. More ideas on creating a direct, simple message, not burying the lead, and bringing the best of your message to the audience.

Section IV: Answering Tough Questions

Phillips ATM method of answering questions - Answer, Transition, Message - is my biggest takeaway from the book. Simple, reliable, and focused. He also covers the dangers of 'The 7 Second Stray', 'The Ambush Interview', and discusses answering questions that you don't know the answer to, or require speculation on your part.

Section V: Body Language and Attire
What to wear, make-up, how to sit - all that you might expect, plus gestures, vocal variety, ah's and umm's, and even hair tips.

Section VI: The Different Media Formats
Discussing differences between just about every format used today, from email to broadcast to Social Media to SKYPE, and more. If you don't know what you're getting into, the surprise factor might just throw you off.

Section VII: Crisis Communication: The 10 Truths of a Crisis
We see big companies (and governments) mishandle crisis communication all the time, and the answers seem simple - after the fact. Phillips takes us through several examples, and provides strategies to help move you and your company through the phases of crisis with minimum damage. Fair warning, though, the first step is: 'You're Going to Suffer at First'.

Section VII: Final Interview Preparation
Notecards, research, practice interviews - and even interviewing the reporter before they interview you. Don't go into an interview blind if you want your message to be heard.


The Media Training Bible was a much better read than I expected - offers excellent ideas and approaches for those being interviewed for the first time, or their 100th. If you are intending to get out into the media with your message, be it through radio interviews, press releases leading to print interviews, or even webinars - you'll be doing yourself a favor reading through this guide, and keeping it nearby, just in case.

If you're working for someone else, and the company comes under fire, and a reporter comes looking for you, this book might be even more valuable, by helping you keep your mouth in line and your job in hand!

5 Stars out of 5.


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