Tools Of The Speaking Trade

Recall and retell the stories you have collected.

justice-law-case-hearing-159832.jpegThe tools of the speaking trade are few; however, the rewards they provide are many. They are the devices we use every day – notepads, laptops, recorders, and cell phones – our everyday print and media tools. The stories they preserve are the rewards, however, no one knows when inspiration will come knocking. When your number is called to be the recorder, will you be prepared to answer, with the tools of the speaking trade?

Keeping your fun-filled stories under a separate heading in your Toolbox is a wise idea. When you are preparing any speech, although stories are essential, laughs are your currency. Laughter is one sure way to make your presentation unforgettable. The stories your Toolbox contains will often provide you with the “magic moment” for your speech. Standup comedy is for comedians. You are a speaker. Focus on recalling the funny stories in your Toolbox that perfectly fit your speech or presentation. Funny comes naturally when you focus on having fun. Don’t try to write funny. Make what you write funny.

Practice mining your stories and novel ideas as they occur. Always be prepared. Someone may be a great photographer, but without tools; a camera, they will are just another bystander. No one knows when the stars will align to present you with that special moment that you were chosen to preserve. As the chosen one to immortalize that piece of history, you must always be prepared. Some of the greatest moments in history were first recorded on napkins. Today a cellphone may be your preference. Email to self or your Toolbox if that is your medium of choice. Never leave home without a tool to preserve unexpected moments. They will provide you with valuable vignettes for all speaking occasions.

As you continue your speaking journey, keep recording and adding unexpected events to your Toolbox. They are the material that you will find is readily available when you are stuck on or off the platform. Turn those vignettes into speech brighteners – short stories that will add humor to brighten your speeches, and someone’s day. Visit your Toolbox regularly.

Recall and retell the stories you have collected. Make those stories your “isms” – Some call mine Henry-isms. Others refer to them as Miller-isms. The more you tell your stories, the better you will become at making them fit naturally into your presentations. There will always be room for one more story to gather. Don’t post them on social media. Save them for the platform. Your Toolbox may hold the key to your success someday as a master of the Speaking Trade.

Impromptu Speaking – Stand & Deliver

Sell your answer with your summary.

Build Your Own Models – Formulas and Templates

Impromptu, Table Topic or speaking off–the- cuff are opportunities; all speakers will never be able to avoid. You will always be called upon to say a few words when you least expect. Call it what you will; speaking, thinking, on your feet or winging it; impromptu speaking is a valuable skill every speaker must develop. Impromptu speaking occasions may occur inside or outside of your workplace, social events, or even while conversing with your spouse or kids. In almost every aspect of daily life, those speaking opportunities will occur. However, if you seize every moment to speak, your impromptu skills will one-day pay-off huge dividends.

Some may ask how do you prepare for that which you cannot predict. The trick may be to avoid trying to predict – practice being in the moment. Use the skills you have developed over the years as a speaker. Use your life stories and experiences that brought you to where you are presently standing. A well-delivered response will depend significantly on how well you listen. Be attentive. Listen for keywords and your inner voice as you silently confirm what you just heard. Your inner voice will then direct you through as you proceed to deliver your answer with confidence and a style that represents who you are as a speaker. Don’t fight the feeling – that’s a battle you will often lose.

Before you begin to answer the question or state your position, pausing with a smile is always an excellent way to start. It is a fantastic way to connect with your audience. There is no time penalty for smiling once it is not overdone. Pleasantries are unnecessary – restate the question to your audience and if possible tag it with a bit of humor to begin. Quick wit is a plus; however, in a Toastmasters Table Topic setting, your allotted time is only 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Green at two minutes, Yellow at 2:30 and Red at 3 minutes at which time you have 30 seconds grace before disqualification for going overtime. For that reason, I recommend you use the KISS approach. Keep your response Succinct and Straightforward. Keep your responses Short and Sweet. Always leave yourself some time to summarize. Sell your answer with your summary.

To stay focused on the topic, you can use a model, formula, or template. There are many excellent samples available for all different types of questions and occasions which you can turn into acronyms. There is the PREP formula:– POINT–REASON – EXAMPLE – then sell your POINT to summarize. There is the WAG – Where I WAS where I AM where I am GOING. Again, you must summarize to close. The CER:- CAUSE – EFFECT – REMEDY is another useful model. And the PPF:– PAST – PRESENT – FUTURE is another. Stay with the rule of threes to create your own. As you continue to gain more experience and different types of impromptu speaking opportunities build your own LIBRARY.

Mark Twain said it usually takes him three weeks to write a good impromptu speech. Although Twain makes a good point, I believe it takes a lifetime of experiences to stand before an audience without any rehearsal to speak with confidence. Whether you are an experienced speaker, or it is your first time on the platform, remember you are delivering just a “few words” and not a dissertation. Your few words must have an opening, body, and conclusion. Sounds familiar – however, it is the words you choose and your delivery that will make all the difference.

Follow the basic rules of public speaking. Never apologize, do not ramble, be authentic, and be in the moment. Sell your point with your summary. Don’t wait to be chosen; don’t wait to be called, raise your hand to be selected. Stand and deliver, and soon you will master the most useful public speaking skill all speakers must excel at – Impromptu, off -the – cuff speaking.

Closing to Open

Your conclusion would often lead you to your introduction.

20190907_153155_001Preparing a new speech can, at times, be daunting. One question frequently asked is, should I work on the closing before tackling my opening? My suggestion; speakers should first prepare their foundational statement, then start working on their closing. Your conclusion would often lead you to your introduction.

A foundational statement is that central theme, the purpose statement that runs like a scarlet ribbon, thought your presentation from beginning to end. In your closing, if you are clear about what you want your audience to think, feel or do as you take your seat after speaking, your opening and body would seamlessly fall into place. I call this approach to speech writing and preparation; closing to open. Many great speakers use this approach. Do you close to open?

In a coaching session many years ago, I was introduced to this concept of closing to open. I was also reminded that when you are on the platform, your last words linger, so you should choose them wisely. My speaking coach also went on to state: – The most important minute of your speech is, the minute of silence after you have delivered your presentation. He then explained, that if in that minute of silence your audience is motivated to take some action, make a change or even think differently as a result of your talk, you have achieved what should be the objective of all good speakers, which is to be heard, understood and be repeated. Seldom, will an opening have that kind of effect on an audience.  It is your closing that will leave a long, lasting impact on your audience.

Closing to open works well with all kinds of speeches, even humorous presentations. Speakers should decide how they want to leave their audience. Leave them laughing is the most obvious choice. A pre-prepared closing can be quite handy, especially when speaking at a roast or extemporaneously. All great speakers use them, something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. For example, there are times you may be the only speaker at a meeting. You may want to acknowledge that fact in your closing. Here is a prepared closing example – It is always a special privilege to be the only speaker at one of your meetings. You have been such a wonderful audience; I must leave you with this happy thought. It is never too bleak; it can always be bleaker; this has been a fantastic meeting even without, a second speaker. As mama whale always says to her baby whales, only when you are spouting, you are likely to be harpooned. So please forgive me for cutting my remarks a bit short.

Running overtime is a chronic condition that afflicts many speakers. Imagine what driving records would be if a red light had no effect on drivers. A prepared closing is a must-have for those speakers struggling with that condition. Going over time can destroy an excellent presentation. Here is some sound advice for speakers who frequently go over time, especially when they are delivering longer speeches. Have a hip pocket prepared closing. Here is a sample to use once that red light appears. – I have prepared a great deal more material for my presentation, and have much more I would like to say, but I feel the time has arrived for me conclude, and follow the old advice often given to speakers on how to avoid getting into trouble with their allotted time – Breathe, through your nose. It keeps your mouth shut. Today I invite you to join me as I take a deep breath of fresh air to close.

It is my hope that you too will try this speech writing and preparation concept – Closing to Open.

The Three Ps of Public Speaking

As you open, so too you shall close

20190908_080734Whenever I hear the mighty roar of a Harley Davidson, the sound of that engine reminds me of the three Ps of Public Speaking – Presence, Poise, and Power. Now I must confess I am not a biker. I have never even ridden on a Harley; however, I have always admired the roar and gentle hum of a well-tuned Harley. I call that sound the Harley Roar. To me, it is the personification of Presence, Poise, and Power – The Three Ps of Public Speaking.

Making your presence felt in the first minute of your speech is critical. Before uttering your first word, a power-pause, you can amplify your presence. Some speakers often refer to that pause as the great equalizer. It works for men as well as women, speakers big or small, beginner or professional. Beguile your audience attention with a smile while you lock eyes with your audience in silence. Feel the energy in the room for a moment then begin your presentation. Start, not with pleasantries but with an invitation to take your audience on a ride; one they will never forget to remember. In your opening echo your speech title. Also, let your audience know where you are heading with a carefully crafted opening statement.

A power statement establishes the roadmap of your speech. Included in your roadmap should be a hint of what your audience will receive at the end. Your opening statement should leave a lingering effect on your audience. Your opener can be an ear-catching line, a personal anecdote, or an acronym that will help your audience follow you through the presentation. Pierce the silence of the room, with a bang, then rev like the Harley Roar. Prepare, practice, and polish your opening, then remove some of that polish, as you get comfortable your content.

Power can manifest itself in many different ways. It can be how you dress, how you speak, even in your moments of silence, you can project power. How you dress for the platform speaks volumes about you and your message. There are times to be casual and times to be formal. Think of the statement you are making as you choose your attire for each appearance. Make what you wear on the platform your an integral part of your branding.

As you develop, adopt a style that audiences will identify with you as a speaker. Make your points with power. Make them power points that you can recall in your summation. If you can embellish the point of your presentation with a quote, make that quote one that is relevant to your topic. Deliver it with poise and power or the reverence it deserves. A quotation carefully planted in the middle of your speech creates a subtle change of pace to your presentation.

Open to close. Everything in life comes full circle. I don’t want to sound biblical, however, as you open, so too you shall close. Signal to your audience that you are about to end with a salutation. Begin your closing by recalling your power statements, power points, your power quotes, and request your audience to take some action. Resist the urge to add new content. If you do, you run the risk of confusing your audience with a double ending. Stop speaking! Close your presentation with Presence, Poise, and Power; the three Ps of Public Speaking.

How to be Heard-Understood & Repeated

Audiences remember what you were doing when you said what you were saying.

20190425_185242The first life lesson we all learn as kids is your body speaks. Do you remember the many times you were told:  Now don’t you get sassy with me! You rolled your eyes, then came – Big Mama’s look that stopped you dead in your tracks. You were not even five at the time. Enough said!. Who could ever forget those good old days?

As you grew older, you learned to use your hands. You then add your entire body to communicate more effectively. Now, as a public speaker, you labor to find the right words to express your message, seldom putting the same amount of time and effort to refine what your body is saying. Body Language – that comes naturally! Really!! Then you were reminded by Ralph Waldo Emmerson that what you do speaks so loudly we cannot hear what you are saying – and darkness turned to light – Bing! On the platform, your body language and the spoken word must be in concert as one voice – to be heard, understood, and repeated.

Body Language is your nonverbal expressions of emotions, feelings, and ideas. It can be natural and also habit-forming, both good and bad.  Your habits and delivery are magnified when you are on the platform. Appearance, manner, and physical behavior convey vast amounts of information. Audiences remember what you were doing -good or bad – when you said what you were saying. Gestures say more than words and may even succeed when your words fail to make that intimate connection. Body language is your most powerful instrument for conveying to an audience, your sincerity, earnestness, and enthusiasm. You must also be aware of the habits and tells you would like to avoid; autopilot moves that show your audience you might be in trouble. Looking up at the ceiling when you are lost, is a typical tell which as speakers we all should avoid

Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s Study; Elements of Effective Communication is a guide to which I often refer. His research shows only 7% of our spoken words communicate our message – Voice, and tone 38%. And body language accounts for a whopping 55% of our communication. His study also shows that at times, all it takes is a gesture to make your point; however, it must be the right gesture in the right place, at the right time. When executed correctly, that gesture can speak more eloquently than the spoken word. Words have many dependencies. Among the many are what your audience heard, listened to, accepted, rejected, or remembered. A look, a gesture, or even silence will often send the message you are seeking to communicate. This is why we must make gestures and your body language an essential part of our preparation, practice, and performance.

Gestures and Body Language when you are on the platform can improve with practice and simple exercises. Here is one. The first things I learned as a Cadet was how to stand at attention and at ease. At attention, feet together with hands at your side. At ease, feet twelve inches apart, hand behind your back, right hand over left palm, right thumbs over left. You know the drill. From both positions, try practicing your speech. First, at attention, then at ease. Soon you will notice a significant change in your voice, inflection, tone, and the way you bring words to life – your 38%. Now add your left hand leaving the right behind tucked behind your back. Do the same with the right, leaving the left behind your back. That exercise covers your 55%. Finally, free them both as you add your 7% your speech – you are now at 100%. This exercise can pay huge dividends when practiced assiduously. Get back to where it all began.

Get sassy with your audience. Let your body speak naturally and free, but be in sync with your voice. Use that Big Mama look, now you own it. Practice until your body language is in concert with your voice. Practice, until you achieve the dream of every public speaker – to be heard, understood, and repeated.

Speaking Humorously

The three Rs + Tagging your funny lines on the fly

20180929_095036Speaking Humorously can be challenging for those who struggle with adding fun and laughter to their style of speaking. We all have a sense of humor, some more than others. However, when you focus on the three Rs when adding humor you will recognize how easy it is to adjoin that skill to your speaking style. Speaking humorously takes practice as well as being in the moment. The three Rs + Tagging your funny lines on the fly are bridges that connect speakers to audiences. They are essential skills all speakers should endeavor to master.

The three Rs to focus on when adding Humor to your speaking style are RELEVANCE, REALISTIC and Never READ – It is that simple. A well-known secret in public speaking is, you make a point then tell a story, or, you tell a story then make your point. Similarly, the secret to Speaking Humorously – you make a Relevant point, then tell a Realistic, funny story – or tell a Realistic, funny story to make a Relevant point. Whichever approach you take, your story must be Realistic and Relevant to that audience. Also, you should never read a story on the platform. The lesson – Reading a Relevant, Realistic story on the platform is the public speaking kiss of death.

RELEVANCE:    Storytellers don’t tell jokes; they tell Relevant stories. Their delivery is succinct and to the point. Being brief makes it easier to connect with all audiences. In the speaker’s story, you may find yourself reflecting on some of your own experiences. You may begin to recall how you reacted in a similar situation. Then comes the unexpected twist. You were angry, the speaker ecstatic. You are now asking yourself why I didn’t think of that. With a smile or a gush of laughter, you can relive your moment. The story came alive for you. You and other members of that audience can relate also. Laughter is contagious. Suddenly you realize because that story was Relevant, it was humorous. The lesson, your stories must be Relevant.

REALISTIC:    When you can engage your audience with a Realistic story, your opportunities to add natural humor to your speaking style dramatically increases. Identify your best stories to make a broader point with humor; however, they must be Realistic. Being Realistic can also be ridiculously funny. Little things will often bring realism to your point. For instance, adding point nine, nine, nine to number instead of rounding it up or down will often add humor to your talk. Add Realistic anecdotes to your stories. Include your personal experiences in your style of speaking. Relive your life experiences. Weave elements of your life, the good and the bad and the ugly into your speeches. The lesson, no one can tell your stories better than you can.

NEVER READ:    Reading a funny story kills the humor, especially when you are trying to speak humorously. It is the kiss of death when you are on the platform. The only exception to the “Never Read” rule, is only read something written when it serves as a prop for the story. It could be a newspaper clipping, a letter, an anecdote, or quote you wish to deliver accurately. Even then, you can hold up the prop, refer to it when necessary as you deliver the funny parts of your story. The lesson, humor is not read! humor is delivered.

TAGGING:    Tagging is an essential skill to master when delivering your Relevant and Realistic stories. Extend your humor by Tagging your funny lines with a word, a short sentence, or even body language that provokes continued giggles, chuckles or laughter. When speaking humorously, audiences rate your ability as a humorous speaker by the number of laughs and chuckles you generate. TAGGING increases your laugh count. Never miss an opportunity to TAGG your fun-filled lines. How do you master the art of Speaking Humorously? Practice focusing on the three Rs, Relevance, Realistic, and never Reading your funny lines, Tag them, and you will soon be a natural at Speaking Humorously.

Speaking Viscerally

Satisfaction = Experience – Expectations

20190726_171948Where is that speech you have been longing to give? Is it still stuck in your head, slowly trying to making its way into your heart? Moving a speech from your head to your heart can be an arduous task for many speakers. Even seasoned professionals can sometimes find themselves fumbling and mumbling, with words as they struggle to make a connection with their audience. Speakers are prone to get caughtup in that dilemma when they more “heady” than “hearty.”-When they are trying to memorizing rather than internalizing. – when that speech is still in their head. When you can deliver that speech from your heart, it is ready to be delivered – viscerally.

To deliver speeches viscerally, the speaker has to practice painting pictures with words; we all know and say what a picture is worth. With more word pictures and fewer words, a speaker will deliver their message viscerally. Here is a useful exercise to try before you give your next speech. Imagine, when you arrive at the venue to give your ten or fifteen-minute talk, you are informed there, and then, you have only two minutes to speak. What do you say – Goodbye? – No! You ask yourself – What is my core message? – That gift you planned to leave with your audience that day. Rip those precious words from your prepared speech, and from that experience, you will discover the true messenger and a message that will leave your audience satisfied.

A fellow Toastmaster; Lee told me many years ago, audiences want to be left feeling satisfied. Some audiences will only remember two things after experiencing your presentation – How they felt at the peak of your presentation – good or bad- and how they felt at the end – The peak and end. The more you speak, the more audience expectations will increase. Satisfaction = Experience – Expectations. < S= E1 – E2>. At some point, the emotions of audiences will begin wane. As your speech continues to get better, expectations will begin to increase. Eventually, it is natural to become more difficult to maintain the same level of audience interest. Speakers must know when they peaked and when satisfaction was achieved. Start with a bang. Don’t end with a whimper; let your last words linge. Lee was and still is a master at leaving his audience satisfied.

Visceral speakers trust their message. They believe that they can deliver their talk in two, ten, or fifteen-minutes if necessary. They know when that speech is in their heart and is no longer stuck in their head. When that speech is no longer in your head, it is ready for the platform. It is ready to be delivered viscerally. Get to the core message of your talk early. Be visceral. Work the formula S=E1-E2, and you will leave your audience satisfied. Speak from the heart, and the word pictures you create will leave a lasting impression on all those who were fortunate to have heard you speak, and who knows one day, they may also start speaking viscerally.