Writing for the Platform

Unity and logical thinking are two essential fundamentals of good writing.

Is your presentation ready for the platform? Taking a presentation to the stage is a process. Unity and logical thinking are two essential fundamentals of good writing. Emphasis and variety in your structure are two more essentials that will make your presentation interesting. Emphasis makes your writing forceful. Variety makes ideas appealing to the ear. When all the parts of your structure contribute to making one clear point for your audience, your writing is unified. Each sentence you deliver must form part of the perfect whole. Any change, even one word, can disturb the clarity of your point of view and outcome.

Variety in the structure and length of your sentences make for a good speech. Avoid a series of short or long sentences. While there are no specific rules that govern the construction of paragraphs, listeners expect your ideas to be coherent, well-developed and unified as you address the topic. Keep each paragraph word count between 100 and 250 words long with an average of 5 to 7 sentences. Place your topic sentence close to or at the beginning of each segment. Your topic sentence limits and directs the development of your idea. Organize your paragraphs according to patterns. Patterns help your audience stay connected to your story. 

If ever you are asked why I should write out my speeches, the simple answer is to have something to edit. The speaker should know what they would like their listeners to think, feel, or do after hearing your presentation. They should also decide if their purpose is to entertain, inspire, persuade or which combination is their delivery style. They should also choose a topic they are passionate about. They should then make a list as they ask themselves the following questions:  

  • What will you or your audience find engaging about this topic?
  • What supporting data or stories will prove my point of view?
  • What have I read or heard that I agree or disagree with about this topic?
  • What is the lesson, message, or takeaway for my audience?

Write down all the answers that come to mind. Then, write a hypothesis – your preliminary thesis or a foundational statement. Your foundational statement is a short phrase that echoes throughout your speech.  Also, to ensure you have covered every aspect of your story, make sure the following questions are answered: who, what, when, where, why, and how.  Keep in mind; any unanswered questions can become a distraction to your audience.  The amount of detail you offer depends upon your audience. Whether you are a generalist or specialist on the topic you are addressing, show respect to your audience’s intelligence and curiosity.                                                                 

Vocalize what you have written. As you move your text from your head to your heart, remember emotions move audiences. Read your script out loud until what you have written is internalized. Speeches are delivered, not read. Your presentation is not an act; however, you must bring your words to life. Add the feelings you wish to share with your audience. Practice your delivery of those feelings. Show your audience what it’s like to be happy, sad, surprised, disgusted, or paralyzed with fear as you engage them emotionally with your stories. When your speech is unified, and you can make your audience feel your emotions, you are ready to take that presentation to the platform.

Your Quotable Quotes

Relevant, Relatable, and Repeatable my three R’s when selecting quotes

Quotations can add life and luster to your narrative when used effectively. They can provide credibility, a fresh voice, and new perspectives to your point of view. Conversely, if used ineffectively, they can clutter your presentation, interrupt your flow, and distract your audience from focusing on your message.

After carefully selecting a quote to use in your presentation, you should ask yourself, is my quote relevant, relatable, and repeatable? If the answer is yes to all three questions, you have completed the first test of the selection process.  When your selection is relevant, relatable, and repeatable, you must then decide how, when, and where that selection will fit to add credibility, life, and luster to your story or message. I call Relevant, Relatable, and Repeatable my three R’s when selecting quotes.

I agree; there is nothing you will ever say in your lifetime that has not already been said by someone, somewhere, and at some time.  There is nothing new under the sun. However, I believe in our spontaneous everyday human interactions; we spew wisdom and quotable quotes that naturally creep into our communication with others. Some are bits of knowledge, quotes, and phrases that are appealing to the ear.  We seldom take note of those “isms”   until we hear those same expressions we have used for years in a book, song, or text by someone famous. How often have you said, if only I “would-er,” I “should-er,” I “could-er.”  

Phrases with good ear appeal come naturally to many, but few write them down. When we use our own words of wisdom in our presentations, they are remembered long after leaving the platform. When your audience can relate to your repeatable phrase, like a haunting song, even if they wish to forget what they heard, they can’t. Therefore, speakers should strive to have a few ear-appealing phrases in their speeches. Some call them soundbites. Others refer to them as quotable quotes. To name just a few, “Read my lips.” – “no pain, no gain.” and this “Yogism” – “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

A question often asked is, how much is too much when selecting a quote?  While you should try to present your own words as much as possible, you should cite only the most memorable parts of the source you have selected. Once you have carefully chosen a quote, make sure you have an appropriate setup and follow-up. What precedes and follows the insertion of your selection are just as crucial as your quotation.

Next, you must decide how to weave that quotation into your text. Think of the quotation as the books between your bookends. Your quote is supported by your setup on one side and your follow-up on the other. If one side provides too much or too little support, everything collapses. Again, I must stress that the quote must be relevant to the context preceding and following your selection. If it does not fit, it is better to quit. Move on. The setup and follow-up are just as important or even more critical than the quote you selected.

When using the words of others, get out of the habit of saying “he or she said.” Instead, use a verb to give a voice to the person you are quoting. The person spoken about can become the person speaking; when you use instead, he/she declared, proclaimed, suggested, exclaimed, complained, or remarked. And, this is where it gets a bit tricky for speakers. How do you provide a citation for your quotation? All quotations and paraphrases require a formal source.

Regardless of who you are quoting, give them their due.  One of my favorite references in my everyday communication is: “In the immortal words of the great Marvin Gaye – what’s going on.”  I also love this bit of wisdom from John Lennon: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” But, of course, my favorite sources of quotable quotes will always be the Holy Bible and the songwriters of the seventies, eighties, and nineties.  Listen to the lyrics of many of those songs, and you too will discover a treasure trove of quotable quotes.

Since your speaking is about your perspective, it is a good idea to start quoting yourself. All the great ones do it. Why bring the wisdom and language of others to the platform and let their language and works usurp yours? When you are on the platform, give yourself the permission and liberty to be yourself. First, think of the context that will make your quotation relevant and relatable to your presentations. Remember the three R’s when selecting. Next, think about how you can weave and produce that same message with your own words. Finally, let your audience know who is speaking, and for sure, they will soon be repeating your quotable quotes. And yes, you can quote me on that!

Adding Dialogue to Your Monologue

With dialogue, you can bring an experience or event back to life.

We all have heard it said. No one could tell your story better than you. While that may be true, how you tell your story can make all the difference. Speakers often deliver their presentations as a monologue, dialogue, or with a combination of both. Stories delivered as a monologue is one person doing all the talking.  With dialogue, the speaker can punctuate their presentation with the characters’ voices to make their point more effective or move an audience to make the story unforgettable.

The word monologue has its roots in the Greek word “monologos” – translation, speaking alone.  Dialogue also has Greek roots derived from the word “dialogos” – a conversation between two or more characters narrating parts of the story. Many speakers deliver their entire presentation as a monologue.  However, when you add dialogue to a monologue, speakers can engage their audience as if they both are having a conversation within the presentation.

Dialogue takes you back to experience the scene’s true emotional and personal impact. When two or more people are involved in a conversation, everyone brings their pleasures and pains to the platform. Their emotions are express as a conversation with the audience. The speaker is no longer telling the story or delivering the message to the audience. Instead, the speaker is reliving a moment in time with the audience. With dialogue, you can bring an experience or event back to life.  You can take your audience back to the time and place of the event to show your audience what happened and not just tell them about what happened.

Dialogue also opens the doors to a wide range of voices and opportunities to explore your vocal variety. It is always more interesting for an audience to hear other voices in a speech and not just one voice narrating a story. For example, you cannot deliver what was said using the character’s voice when delivering a monologue. With dialogue, you can create other voices to make your presentation conversational, more interesting, and memorable for your audience.

The beauty of dialogue, when used correctly, does not dominate the speech; it blends in seamlessly. Administer your dialogue in small doses like medicine. A little goes a long way in making parts of your presentation unforgettable.  Dr. Randy Harvey demonstrated that technique beautifully in his speech – Lessons from Fatdad.  Here is that amazing emotional scene he created after his dad’s thunderous bellow scattered their hounds like cottonseeds on the wind:

“The next morning – Fatdad was buffing the scratches out of his new car.

 I said – “Fatdad, I’m sorry you had to rescue me.”

He scooped me up in his big arms,

Said – “Son, in life, sometimes you’re the catcher – sometimes you’re the caught.”

“When you love somebody – their trouble is your trouble.”

That line delivered with dialogue remains one of the most unforgettable moments of that speech to this day. His speech also won him the coveted title of World Champion of Public Speaking in August of 2004.

When using quotations, dialogue allows the speaker to imitate the voice of the person you are quoting.  With dialogue, a speaker can use voice, tone, and inflections to bring the words of great speakers back to life. Just a snippet is often enough to change the focus of your audience in a speech. At that moment, audiences often reflect on a time and place when those exact words meant something special to them. For some, it can be a moment of learning, growth, understanding, or renewal.

We all have stories to tell, so don’t be afraid to tell yours.   Practice using stories within your speeches. Use dialogue to transport your audiences back in time. Share the emotions you once experienced with your audiences. Explore different storytelling styles by adding dialogue to your monologue.  Be conscious of which part of the body you are addressing as you speak. Ask yourself, am I addressing the head, heart, hands, or feet? Get your audiences to think, feel or do something. Speak with a purpose, and someone will always be ready, willing, and able to lend you an attentive ear.  When you speak from the heart, the world will listen. And you, your voice, and your stories will live on forever.

Tensions And Release

Every speech should have a magic moment

The application of Tensions and Release is critical in public speaking and music.  In speaking, the process begins with a buildup of stress or pressure. The audience senses the buildup and processes the information to translate it into emotions. Finally, the audience anticipates a point of Release. The pressure continues to build until the speaker releases the Tensions, giving the audience a moment to rest. In that period of rest, both speaker and audience reward themselves emotionally. 

The drama created and expectations of a resolution hold the audience’s attention. The anticipation of what’s coming next keeps the storyline moving forward. The amount and quality of Tensions created are significant. It should be appropriate for the moment and that audience. Tensions can be chaos, confusion, unrest, instability, anticipation, or even curiosity. What’s most important is the effect it awakens in the minds and hearts of the audience.

 The feeling the audience experiences after the resolution is critical.  Timing also plays a vital role in the process. Many speakers use some of the same techniques used in music to create a Release. We all know them as loud, soft, rhythm, tone, and silence.  In public speaking, we call them different names. Still, they produce the same feelings and results we experience when listening to music.

Be mindful that everyone will not have the same physical experience; however, there are six basic emotions to which all humans respond. The 1991 World Champion of Public Speaking, David Brooks, often spoke about those six emotions – happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust. Speakers should match their body language with their feelings during delivery. The quality and amount of stress depend upon what the moment demands. While it is crucial to produce adequate pressure, speakers must also know the right time to release.

If the resolution is too early or too late, that will ruin the experience. Instead, release at precisely the right time, and you will produce a magical moment.  Magical moments are segments of a speech remembered long after a speaker has made their delivery. The buildup leading to your Release can create a magic moment. The Release can be gradual or abrupt. It requires expectations from both the speaker and the audience. Both must move in concert as they advance towards a climax. As a rule, every speech should have a magic moment.

Tensions are critical moments for both speaker and audience. The audience is an active but silent contributor as the drama unfolds. However, some audiences don’t like to take a wild roller coaster ride. Therefore, the number of times you insert Tensions and Releases in a speech matter. How many times can you handle the big dipper? Speakers must never forget the purpose of Tensions and Releases. They keep the storyline moving forward. Keep an eye on the facial expressions of your audience. Strategically apply your Tensions to match the emotions in the room. Remember, the speaker creates the entire process, then calls upon the audience to be curious or excited or anticipate what might come next.

The effective use of Tensions and Release in speaking can be a game-changer. It is a process that produces immediate results. When you notice audiences are eager to take some action during the moment of silence after your presentation, you will understand the power of the process. It is a power that does not last a minute; it is a minute that will last a lifetime. Make a conscious effort to master the application of Tensions and Releases in your presentations. Practice using all six emotions in your everyday conversations. And you will come to realize the power of adding Tensions and Releases to your style of communication.

Who is Filling in The Blanks

Give your audience the chance to use their imagination.

When you are delivering a speech, who fills in your blanks? Who answers the unanswered questions in your presentation? Ever given much thought to those questions. Unanswered questions can become a distraction; however, TMI – too much information can also have the same effect. Letting your audience fill in some of the blanks can get your audience connected to your speech.  Give your audience the chance to use their imagination. And if you do, you may avoid the crime so many speakers are guilty of committing – offering too much unnecessary information. Find your balance between what’s said, left unsaid, answered later, and when you should let silence send your message.

When in doubt, leave it out

I am sure you have heard it said; when in doubt, leave it out. But what to leave out is always a bone of contention, especially when receiving expert advice that is well-intended but often questionable. Testing your material with audiences is essential; however, the buck stops with you, the speaker. For example, suppose after testing or delivering a presentation, your audience has many questions related to clarity. Take note. Perhaps some of the blanks your audience filled in did not deliver the message you intended. What’s said is most essential. What is left unsaid at times is even more critical to the success of your presentation. Consider your cost in time as you decide if what you included is a keeper.

            The seeds are sometimes a question or statement

Apart from the economy of words and time, you will discover that letting your audience fill in blanks can also create a bit of mystery to your speech. One technique is to sow seeds in the early parts of your presentation to bear fruit later. The blank you created will often have the effect of making your audience listen more attentively. Your seeds are sometimes a question or statement to be answered later in the presentation. In those cases, you are the one filling in your blank. The resolution may not always be what your audience expected, that’s OK. This practice works even when you receive the expected or an unexpected reaction from your audience. If the blank filled resulted in humor, that’s often a win-win for both you and your audience.  

             Who, what, when, where, why, and how

So how do you decide what is said and what you can leave to the imagination of your audience? It is a matter of risk and reward. Be mindful that whatever you choose may not always work. Good results often elevate speakers from good to great, but what if the risk was a failure. Look on the bright side; you are still a good speaker. When testing, start by asking these questions – who, what, when, where. why and how. Those six questions are your safety net. If any is answered with the least possible number of words and ambiguity, why take a risk? Clarity should always be your primary consideration. On the other hand, if you have a gut feeling, there will be some reward – test, test, and test again before going with your gut feeling.

    Pause for a cause and not just because

One of your essential blanks that can positively or negatively affect your speeches is the pause. Of course, pauses are necessary blanks in your presentations. However, when pauses are deemed unnecessary, they can be a distraction to both you, the speaker, and your audience. Speakers should- “pause for a cause and not just because.” When preparing your presentation, remember what is left unsaid can be just as important as what is said. Therefore, make sure you ask yourself this important question before taking your presentation to the platform – Who is filling in The Blanks.

Better Living Through Chemistry

A patient cured is a customer lost.

Pain management has become a major part of my daily living. In my youth, I too fell for that old saying, no pain, no gain. However, today, I have taken comfort in the fact that where there is pain, there is life. Recently I have taken an interest in natural remedies for my pain management. So, when I heard the following speech delivered by Deanne Deaville at her Morgan Hill Toastmasters Club, which I often attend, I asked, can I post your speech to my Blog? She obliged, and here it is – Better Living Through Chemistry – Deanne Deaville:

For hundreds of years, traditional herbalists worldwide knew that if someone was in pain, whether it be from a muscle sprain, a broken bone, or maybe something internally, they could go to a willow tree, pull off some bark, and make a compress and apply it directly. Or, make a tea to drink.

And if somebody had a lung issue, they could find a cherry tree and pull the bark to make a syrup with other herbs and local honey. Or perhaps someone inadvertently walked through poison ivy or poison oak; a traditional herbalist would know to go back to the same location and find jewelweed, which always grows nearby and is the natural antidote.

But today’s motto is better living through chemistry. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? It sounds like science. Which means it’s efficient, effective, proven. It also gives us the impression that we can do whatever we want, and if something goes wrong, just take a pill for that.

For thousands of years, energy workers, primarily in the far East, knew how to adjust energy. Subtle pressure, using hands, massage, spinal manipulation, needles, also known as acupuncture, would affect the flow of energy through our body through meridian systems that they mapped out thousands of years ago.

Sometimes too much energy is flowing; other times, too little, it’s stagnant or blocked. Qigong, and energy movement, sometimes called meditation in motion, is practiced daily by millions. And many Qigong masters say, if you practice this ancient art of effortless motion for 20 minutes a day, you will live disease-free to 120 years old. That’s a pretty good promise.

But today’s motto is about science. Better living through chemistry. New is better. The new discoveries and what we’ve learned in higher education are better. And they’ve made pills for whatever we might need. For hundreds of years, herbalists traditionally knew how to gather and use herbs, known as wildcrafting, and for thousands of years, energy workers have manipulated the flow of energy.

Today more and more people are interested in these old ways. Why? Because they work. And they work without side effects.  You can go to your doctor and walk away with a pill to help with whatever is ailing you at that moment, but they’re generally many side effects, and then more pills come as a result. Which can then lead to more side effects, more problems. But there’s a pill for that too. It never ends.

There’s always going to be a need for more. Another issue, another symptom. Another pill, another booster. But by now, our culture has been raised in this “better living through chemistry” motto. And you might think that it unfolded naturally and organically became this way through modern ways of life and capitalism. Supply and demand sort of thing. And while there is some truth to that, as that is a machine we have in place in this country, it didn’t begin this way.

In truth, it began over 100 years ago with a guy named Abraham Flexner. He started questioning the validity of universities, specifically in medicine. Instead, he felt they should be more rigorous and more science-based. This caught the attention of the Carnegie Foundation, who then commissioned him to write what is now known as the Flexner report. This report, published in 1910 with the purpose of promoting science in academia.

To promote science-based, evidence-based, chemistry-based treatments for health issues. For example, teaching the mechanistic method of individual parts and treating these with chemistry – drugs – marketed as medicines. And this is the method that was then taught in universities. But, it was new and better, and the future.

This report came out just a few years after the Food and Drug Act was passed in 1906 (later becoming what we now know as the FDA) and a few years after the USPTO was formed. Their rules stated a natural substance on its own, found in plants, could not be patented; however, if the active component of the plant could be isolated, this could be viable for a patent.

Hence, willow-bark would not be allowed to be owned and protected, but aspirin – salicylic acid, the active component – could be, and the Bayer company owned that product. The Flexner report was then heavily promoted and lauded as a better way. Big money went into the funding of these schools like the Harvard school of medicine, Johns Hopkins University. The report also attacked the natural medicine schools.

While promoting the new and better, it also simultaneously discredited other types of health schools, including chiropractic, naturopathic, and homeopathy. It became obvious that if one aspired to be a reputable doctor, one would attend a professional and formal school and not be associated with the other side, which was starting to be known then as quacks. As these other schools got bigger, the natural side of schools and education got smaller. And 100 years later, here we are.

This is about money. Big money. A patient cured is a customer lost.

It is estimated that more than 400,000 people die annually of properly prescribed medications. That’s properly prescribed! As opposed to herbs and natural forms of treatment which virtually do no harm. There was one time, about 15 years ago, I believe a baseball player took a whole bottle of “ma huang,” also known as ephedra.

And, he apparently didn’t drink any water. And he died. So, the FDA banned the herb. They outlawed it. They said it was dangerous. A few others had died previously, although not conclusively as a result of taking this herb, and one known, after taking it incorrectly. As opposed to more than 400,000 dying every year.

Decade after decade from properly prescribed medications. Add to this person who do not take prescription medicines correctly. Maybe they didn’t remember if they took their meds this morning, so they take another or even over-the-counter drugs which are abused regularly, such as Tylenol. And the opiate crises, highly addictive poisons… Then add to these medical mistakes; this is by far the greatest cause of death every year in this country, by many times over. 

The slogan better living through chemistry came from a marketing campaign by Dupont chemical company in 1935. Their ad stated, “better things for better living through chemistry.” Marguerite Adelman said about this ad, “the slogan had little to do with chemistry and more to do with promoting big business as a force for moral good and continual progress.” Moral good… continual progress…..All things that sound desirable and worthy of moving toward as a society.

But will big business really be a force for moral good and continual progress? I believe the way forward is to go back. To go back to traditional methods. And we each have the power and the choice to do so – at least today we do. Preservation of health is easier than the cure for disease.  And in the process, you will feel better. You will have more energy. You’ll enjoy life more. Better living is not through chemistry but by living in accord within the laws of nature.

Deanne Deaville: After an unexpected cancer diagnosis, Deanne turned her non-stop life of chaos to one of thriving and high energy through targeted nutrition and authentic living techniques, which she now teaches to others. She is a best-selling author, healthy lifestyle coach, and workshop facilitator with a formal background in nutrition who helps stressed and overwhelmed professionals gain increased clarity, productivity, energy, and more fulfillment from life. In short, a coach to help you shift your life to one worth living.  You can reach Deanne by email at Coach@HealthyByHeart.com.

Green Bay – The Road Trip

When you think like champions, practice like champions, and play like champions, you are champions.

If you ever go to Green Bay, Wisconsin, make sure you visit Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. Take a guided tour of the stadium. And, for sure, you may also find it only fitting to pay homage to one of the legends of American football, Earl Louis Curly Lambeau.

In 2018, I traveled to Green Bay with my daughter, Phylicia, to check off one of her bucket lists items. Our road trip felt like we were on a pilgrimage as I watched her experience one of her happiest days at an almost empty stadium. I had bitter-sweet memories of those times she sat in a corner like Jack Horner, eating humble pie. At the same time, the rest of the family celebrated with our heroes during the Niners’ glory days. Yes, game days were challenging for the family whenever the packers were in town. But, while she was cheering for the Packers, everyone else was for the forty-niners.

That day she was all smiles as we admired the trophies and magnificence of Lambeau Field. The many Super Bowl trophies with Lombardy’s words of wisdom adorning the walls of the stadium. One that stopped me dead in my track: “There is only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything.” Still, I kept thinking, where did I go wrong as a father? But, as the tour progressed and the story of Curly unfolded, I was reminded of one of my first parenting lessons. We make our kids, but not their choices. That day, I was the one eating crumbs off my daughter’s humble pie as our tour guide spoke about the life and loves of Curly Lambeau. His coaching philosophy was simple; when you think like champions, practice like champions, and play like champions, you are champions.

Curly Lambeau was an outstanding player at Green Bay East High School, where football was like a religion. And curly was very religious. After graduating from high school, he fulfilled his childhood dream of playing college football at Notre Dame for the legendary coach, Knute Rockne. However, curly returned to Green Bay after only his first season with Notre Dame and never returned to the college. Some say it was because of injuries; others claimed it was because of his inadequate finances. But I believe it was because of his love for his girlfriend Marguerite, who became his first wife. Oh, Curly was known to be quite a lover and could sell snow to Eskimos. He even had two more wives before his sunset in June of 1965. When asked in what was his final interview if he had any regrets in life, he said: “My only regret was that I didn’t start two teams back in 1918.”

The story of the Green Bay Packers dates back to 1918n when Curly returned to Green Bay from Notre Dame. Curly took a job at the Indian Packing Company but continued his love affair with football. You see, Football was not a profession until the mid-1920s. Salaries for the top players were between 100 and 300 dollars per game. Still, in 2017, Curley jumped at the opportunity when he learned about a Community League that was about to begin in Green Bay. The fee to join was $50.00. Curly, with his smooth-talking, convinced his management at the packing company to pay the startup fee, which they did reluctantly. And, the Indian Packing Company Football Team was born to boost morale at their meatpacking facility.

Sadly, the novelty soon wore off, and in less than two years, it was curtains for the league and the team. The following year, Curley learned about the formation of a National League. However, the signup fee for that league was a whopping $150.00. Curly again approach his management, who politely told him to get lost. Who wouldn’t have loved to be a fly on the wall to hear his pitch, as he was told: “Come on, you waisted our $50.00 just a year ago!” But Curly would not be denied. Finally, his management relented when they learned about a plan, Curly and his buddy from his high school, George Whitney Calhoun, who was in the newspaper business. The Indian Packing Company Football team was restarted and admitted to this newly formed football league called – The NFL. Yes, the same NFL we know today.

The team needed Additional funds to purchase uniforms, gear, and other necessities. So together, Curly and Calhoun came up with a genius plan, selling Zero valued shares. The shared offer nothing to the buyers, only bragging rights, nothing more, nothing less. To this day, Green Bay is the only sports franchise that is of the people, for the people, and by the people. There is even an ongoing waiting list of prospective buyers today. That startup fee that was about $500.00 is also known as one of the most significant ROI – Return on Investment in the world of sport and business. The Green Bay Packers as a franchise is now worth over 2.7 billion dollars. Ironically, the name change from the Indian Packers was initiated by Margarete when she shouted – For goodness’ sake, Curly, why don’t you call the darn team the Green Bay Packers and stop this? “Indian Packing business – You are now a professional ballplayer man.” The new name stuck, and the team became – The Green Bay Packers.

In case you are wondering, who is still the Packers fan? My daughter Phylicia still is. But after that tour, I now have nothing but respect and admiration for the Green Bay Packer. Yes, I am still a Niner. On our way home, I had to ask my fabulous daughter again why – what on earth made you such a fan of the Green Bay Packers. Was it because of your favorite play Bret Favre, or was it Curly? What was the attraction? Still clutching her single share certificate offer, which added her to their waiting list, with a smile, she said: Dad, who would not like to be part of a team owned by their fans. Players will come, and players go, but the true fans will always remain. Is there any other team that is of the people, for the people, and by the people? It’s not just the players. Dad, it’s the fans and the community of Green Bay that make their team true Champions.

Do you Check-in with your audience

When you want to be heard, don’t follow the herd

Check-in if you want to be checked-out

A proven way to engage audiences in the first minute of your speech is to use a check-in. When you don’t check-in, your audience may just check-out. Many professional speakers will tell you that you may never get back that audience once you lose them in that first minute of your presentation. Checking-in with your audience is an invitation to get them involved. It’s like opening the doors to say welcome, let’s talk. That moment you take to acknowledge your audience will pay huge dividends to you, that audience, and most importantly, your judges when speaking competitively.

The best check -ins are questions, aroused curiosity, or conflict. However, you should also be aware that some check-ins can cause your audience to immediately check-out from you and your presentation. For example, overused openings like: “Have you ever….” When the second half of that question does not stimulate curiosity or excitement in your audience’s minds, that check-in may be a check-out. The next time you have the urge to open with: “have you ever,” try building the curiosity you are seeking with the word:” Imagine.

Speakers can find many excellent check-in examples in some of the Toastmasters World Champions of Public Speaking speeches. One example that immediately comes to mind is Darren LaCroix’s question while lying face down on stage. In the opening of his championship speech: Ouch, he asked: “did I stay down too long – have you ever stayed town too long.” That was one of the most memorable lines of that speech. Another excellent check-in was by Lance Miller – Do you validate.? Again, these are all questions strategically placed to open the doors to establish a connection with their audience. Notice, they all little questions that produce huge results.

Sometimes you can also connect with your audience by addressing the deliberately placed elephant in the room. David Brooks used that technique when he won the Championship in 1990. For his presentation, he wore jeans and a tuxedo. And, what did he do? He used this check-in: “in case you are wondering, some of us do dress this way down here?” His check-in was relevant to the 1990 current events and the situation in the country when the famous was becoming infamous – Sounds familiar – He did his homework, and it worked.  

It’s wise to know as much as possible about your audience’s expectations and demographics, age, background, and gender. Another technique commonly used by Toastmasters and by Jazz musicians too is the call and response technique.  At the beginning of the presentation, the speaker or performer frames questions to connect with their audience. For example, a speaker may ask questions related to the topic they are about to present. This technique is helpful when the speaker is not familiar with the audience they are facing. It can build confidence and quickly help establish parameters with that audience.  

The more you know about your audience, their likes, dislikes, and expectations, the easier it is to establish a connection. Keeping your audience engaged from start to finish begins with your opening. Then, a strong introduction sets the tone for the remainder of the speech. At every step of the way, you must know what you want your audience to think, feel or do. Speakers must also know how much is too much or how long is too long. Speakers must also listen to feedback but go with their gut feelings. “When you want to be heard, don’t follow the herd.” Instead, take the obstacle course or the proverbial road less traveled. And when you are a speaker who is known for checking in with audiences and keep them engaged, soon audiences from all over will be checking-in to just to check you out.

The Olympics of Public Speaking

Did I take a club speech to Division or a Division speech to the District?

Making it all the way to the World Championship of Public Speaking is the dream of many Toastmasters who enjoy competing.  For some, it is the Olympics of Public Speaking. Many enter the competition for the love of speaking competitively and to develop as a speaker. The lessons learned from their successes and failures serve as reminders of the “dos and don’t” when next they are on the platform. However, for many, it’s the 2nd place finishes that are the hardest. You were so close. What could you have done differently?

Did your journey end at the club level, even though some felt that your speech could have been a winner at the finals at the International contest?   Even more painful, did your end come at the Regionals? Where ever it ended for you, make it your new beginning. The 1990 World Champion David Brooks called 2nd place finishes “The Sting of Silver.” Even before the pain passes, take the lessons learned and start preparing for your next trip to the platforms. Look at what worked and start fixing what didn’t. Your journey to the big stage continues.

A good place to restart is with your topic selection. Was your topic appropriate for the contest level, that room, your audience, and judges? Did you take a club speech to division or a Division speech to the District? That’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight. While you should choose a topic you are passionate about, connecting with your audience should be your primary focus. The topic you choose can decide your final place in your competition. Was your presentation all about you? Did the topic have some universal appeal? These are all questions you should address. 

Coaches always emphasize the importance of establishing a connection with your audience through personal stories and real-life events spun into a unique and powerful speech. Your speech should not be an act. Your results are by far better when you use persuasion and the power of the spoken word effectively to keep your audience engaged. While it’s a tall order for anyone, it is one of the main reasons why there is only one winner annually.

Every World Champion I can remember had a well develop (FS)-Foundational Statement. Your FS is the premise, theme, or message on which a speech is built. For some, it was a carefully worded sentence, a question, or a phrase with a unique connection to their message. That message should be powerful, catchy, memorable, and short enough to fit on the back of a business card. Be concise but also be clear. How you choose to deliver your message is also critical. Remember you are giving your speech to and for your audience.

To achieve your best results, don’t just tell your audience; show them, take them, be descriptive. Use word pictures to convey your message. If a picture paints a thousand words, then paint pictures with your words. Also, check for unanswered questions in your script. Questions can become a distraction to your audience. Answer every question, resolve every conflict, and be always clear to your audience.

Speakers should try to avoid recent events and stories overused by the Internet and social media. Events with varied audience interests, opinions, and topics too big to be delivered completely in five to seven minutes are risky to bring to the platform. If a topic can divide the views of an audience, it will most likely divide the opinions of the judges. Remember, all you have is five to seven minutes. And don’t use the platform for therapy. Let those who have moved on rest in peace. Establish your purpose in the first thirty seconds of your presentation and let that purpose resonate through your speech.

Be sure about what you want your audience to think – feel – or do after hearing your speech. The minute of silence after your address can be the most critical minute for you, your audience, and judges. If they feel compelled to take some action during that minute of silence, you most likely achieved your goal who knows, and you could be the next Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking. 

All Speaking is Public Speaking

You cannot unsay what was said

My first speaking coach once said to me, all speaking is public speaking. Whether you are giving a prepared speech, an Impromptu talk, a Table Topic, or even speaking with friends and family, you are public speaking. For that reason; speakers must always choose their words carefully. You can undo what was done, but you cannot unsay what was said. Good public speakers strive to speak with empathy, good tone, and vibe when speaking on or off the platform. They know what you practice, becomes permanent. They also learn and exercise the essentials of good communication. They open with short introductions, followed by the premise of their story, the story, before closing with a summary or conclusion. Their communication is always clear, concise, and engaging.

Table topics are one to two minutes long. Prepared and impromptu speeches are five to seven minutes. Call them whatever you wish; once they have an opening, body, and conclusion with a topic and purpose, they are speeches. And they should always be delivered as such to the audiences you are addressing. When delivering any of the thirteen different types of speeches, if you practice using the same delivery style as you would in your everyday speaking experiences, over time you too will notice a tremendous improvement in your ability to communicate effectively.

Preparation is your key to success as a speaker. Dr. Ralph Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters, often said “A prepared speaker should never be nervous.” However, today speakers must stay prepared. While we should always prepare for any speaking assignment, there will be times when you didn’t get prior notice. That’s when staying prepared pays huge dividends. It is great to have one or two pocket speeches you can deliver at a moment’s notice.  However, here are a few more ideas to help you stay prepared. Keep a list of one, two or three-word topics which you can comfortably speak on, anytime, anywhere. Build and keep a story file from your life experiences. Begin with that single word that is the trigger, which always leads you to reflect on each experience. From that single word, you can build an idea, topic, and story.

Your single word can also lead you to a foundational statement. Next, add one or two related words to develop your topic title. For example: Your first word can be Love.  A related word can be Marriage. You now have your topic title from those two related words: Love and Marriage. Another approach is to use categories: Here are a few: Good Times, Rookie Mistakes, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. You can also string two related table topics into a single five-to-seven-minute speech. Have fun developing your ideas into topics and titles. Titles also make good openings for your presentations. Don’t make them too complex; make them memorable. If your topic echoes universal experiences, that will prepare your audience for what is to follow. Silently they should be saying, tell me more, tell me more.

When speakers accept that all speaking is public speaking, they will notice significant improvements in their ability to connect with audiences.  It doesn’t matter if they are on or off the platform.  With every opportunity to communicate with others, their confidence grows.  When impromptu speaking, they will feel prepared, because they have stayed prepared. Use your everyday conversations to develop your communication skills. You will notice your transformation into a speaker who can take you on a journey, and not just tell you a story about a journey. Speakers who can bring the person they are off the platform, to the platform, are the ones who speak from the heart, and truly believe that all speaking is public speaking.