Brainstorming – Making Your Good Great

The phrase that pays stays

20190726_172121Brainstorming is a worthwhile exercise that never ends when you are creating a speech. It can make a good speech great. Feedback is always incoming; however, it is how you manage your feedback that determines the outcome of your presentation. Once you have decided on a topic, the next step is to begin searching and researching for relevant data. Like an open faucet, I let it all flow -the – who – what – where – why – I write it all down. I recommend that you keep writing until you have much more material than you will have time to include in your speech. Then comes the million-dollar question, what are my keepers? What should I do next, and in which order? I write my FS, my Foundational Statement – to anchor my message.

Start asking yourself questions like what don’t I know or what I know about this topic that I could address with passion? Another critical concern should be, what is going to be the takeaway line for my audience – the message, the Magic Moment that will linger long after l leave the platform? Many of the foundational phrases I use today are ones I inherited from my parents. Some of their favorites, which I still remember, “hang with the buzzards; you’ll never fly like an eagle.” Son, there is nothing new under the sun! And one of Papa’s favorite, “a jack of all trades is a master of none.” Craig Valentine, the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking, is a master of developing great phrases. I am sure your parents also gave you many gems you can still remember. Use them.

I stress the focus on your foundational phrase when you are brainstorming because of the many times I have seen it produce great titles and Magic Moments. A foundation phase should be no more than ten, single-syllable words that anchor your story, clarifies your point, and can even make your case. There is no more significant example I could offer than this phrase from that famous case from a few short years ago: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit!” The more you use your foundational statements in your everyday conversations, the more you will begin to own them. Make them a part of your communication style. Keep what supports your message and your goal. Also, focus on what you want your audience to think, feel, or do at the end of your presentation. Tailor your presentation to their needs and interest of your audience. If your purpose is to sell products, my FS phrase of choice is: “the phrase that pays stays.”

Once you are happy with your talking points and your foundational statement, the next step is to begin testing to see what are your keepers. I also recommend focusing on these two bits of wisdom I learned from David Brooks, the 1995 World Champion of Public Speaking: “Great speeches are not written; they are rewritten! Great speeches are not read; they are delivered.” With that in mind, start writing your speech for the ear, and not for the eyes. When you are writing a novel, you write for the eyes. Write for the ear, the listener. Remember, your speech has to move from your head to paper for editing. Then from paper, back to your head. You cannot edit what you have not written. Next, you must get that speech out of your head and into your heart for delivery on the speaking platform. The next time a version of that speech is presented, you will get even more feedback, and the process begins all over again. Great speeches are never final – What makes them great- Good feedback and Brainstorming.

Why Do You Prepare

It is not about you, it’s about your audience

20190726_172024Why do you prepare? Is it just to become better speakers, or do you prepare for your audience?  While it is said, you should select topics you are passionate about, choosing a topic that resonates with the audience you are facing should be your primary focus. You see, it is not about you; it’s about your audience. Take a moment to consider the needs and interests of the audience you will be facing as you begin your preparation. The topic you choose can have a significant effect on how well you are received by that audience. Your presentation should not only be all about you, your goals, and your achievements. Undoubtedly, personal stores are valid; however, they should not dominate the presentation.

Speeches with a message that has some universal appeal, more often than not, will have a lasting effect on audiences. The challenge for the speaker is to establish a connection with that audience through personal stories, humor, and relatable events spun into unique presentations. A speech is not an act. Speakers who use persuasion and the power of the spoken word effectively to keep their audience engaged should not need to perform or act. Speakers stand to deliver. They move with a purpose. They keep their audience engaged from the beginning of their presentation to their very last word.    

One of the most critical questions a speaker should ask themselves as they prepare for their audience is, what’s my purpose. Your purpose should be quite evident very early in your presentation. Get to the point of your presentation quickly with a strategy that would have the most significant effect on your audience. Open with a bang and not with a whimper. Don’t leave room for your audience to begin making assumptions about where you are heading. Be inviting. Make your audience curious. However, be clear as you take your audience willingly on the journey – your presentation.

Give your audience the confidence that you are a trusted leader. Your speech may be about a time and place from your past. You may want to relive a momentous event in your life on the platform. Use word pictures to recreate that moment in time as you bring those events back to life. Introduce your conflict early. Resolve conflicts, don’t leave them hanging. Name and describe your characters. Decide and be clear about who your hero is. An excellent choice is often someone other than yourself. Whatever you do, be clear. Be clear about what you would like your audience to think, feel, or do at the end of your presentation.

Your Foundational Statement is an excellent starting point for developing your speech. World Champion Speaker, Craig Valentine, calls it your “The foundation of your presentation.” I like to think of it as the foundation on which your speech is built. It can be a carefully worded sentence, question, or catchy phrase. It should echo the core message and purpose of your presentation. The sentence or phrase you choose should also be powerful, short, and memorable. Foundational statements with a rhythm always resonate a lot better with audiences.

Create your own Foundational Statements. Begin by testing some of your affirmations you use in your everyday conversations with friends and family members. Read their reactions as you continue to develop those that best represent you. Your foundational phrase will often take you much longer to develop than your speech.  The sentence, phrase, or question you develop should be no more than six to eight words or even shorter. Some great ones that readily come to mind are -: Do you validate? – Lance Miller – or Craig Valentine – Don’t get ready, stay ready. – Practice developing your own and work them into your presentations.

Every memorable speech has a Magic Moment.  Your magic moment can be a pause, a look, or a powerful statement. It is a defining moment in your speech that jumps out at your audience whenever anyone mentions just the title of that speech. What is also even more important is the placement of that moment. The statement you choose could be a current event that had a significant impact on the world stage. However, it should bear some relevance to your message. It should not be a distraction, abrupt, or contrary to the flow of your presentation. A magic moment that complements your foundational statement and message will always have a lingering effect on your audiences. This is yet another reason why that moment must be well placed. 

Your preparation often determines your success or failures when you are on the platform. It is when we are on the platform we all learn and grow. If you are well prepared, you will have many successes; however, it’s the failures that make us stronger and better presenters.  Let your failures be a reminder that you need to be better prepared for the next time and the future. Even on those days, when you think you were terrible, rest assured you may have brought a ray of sunshine into the life of someone in that audience if you prepared for that presentation. You see, after all, is said done, it is not about you, it is all about your audience. That’s why we prepare.

Teacher Preacher or Public Speaker- Who are You?

Public Speakers build trust with audiences by speaking naturally to communicate in different styles!!

20190726_171948When you are on the speaking platform, are you a Teacher, Preacher, or Public Speaker? – Who are you – is a question many speakers and audiences sometimes struggle to answer. Teaching and preaching do have much in common with public speaking. But when you represent yourself as a Public Speaker, you should always remember the following: Teachers teach, preachers preach, while good Public Speakers communicate their message by developing topics with unique points of view. Public Speakers tell stories to make a point or make a point to tell a story. Public Speakers build trust with audiences by speaking naturally to communicate in different styles. Their style may include teaching and preaching. However, the predominant communication style they choose often reflects who or what they truly are when they are on or off the speaking platform.

Public Speaking takes many hours of practice, which never ends with perfection. Speakers must master many different disciplines before they can change their default behaviors as a speaker, especially when they are on the platform. Vocabulary, gestures, and even pauses, to name just a few, take many hours of stage-time and practice to become an accomplished speaker. The same goes for teaching and preaching or any other field of practice. Perhaps that is why professionals begin a “Practice” once they become qualified in their chosen field.

If you wish to add teaching or preaching to your style of speaking, tell stories to make your points or make your point by telling stories just as was done in biblical days by the great teachers and preachers since the beginning of time. They used parables and sermons to illustrate their moral and spiritual lessons. Carefully add that style of speaking to your repertoire, and your audience will receive your message without ever realizing you are teaching or preaching.

Speaking opportunities and platforms will vary. Your platform should determine the content you will deliver to your audience. As you continue to grow as a speaker, your primary style of speaking may remain constant. Content will vary, but who you truly are will always creep into your presentations as you continue your journey. The life lessons you have leaned — the change you made along the way. The wisdom and skills you are developing will reflect in your style of speaking, whether you are on or off the platform. Your platform can be a meeting at work, a conversation with friends and family, or even a speech or contest. Once you have a point of view that engages your audience and you are authentic on that platform, there will always be an audience for your message.

As you continue to grow, avoid lessons, audiences don’t care to learn. Avoid repeating sermons your audience may have heard many times before. I was once given this bit of wisdom: “if you follow the herd, you will never be heard.” Your challenge as a speaker is to present your point of view differently. Speak in ways that make the ordinary extraordinary. Speak about topics with universal appeal, topics that can make audiences want to think, feel, or make changes to their lives and the lives of others. Speak about your successes, your failures, and the painful lessons you learned along the way, never forgetting to mention those who helped you see the light, in your hours of darkness. Public Speaking is a long and winding road to your self-discovery. It is the road that leads you to your answer to the ultimate question – Who are you? – a Teacher, Preacher, or Public Speaker.

Do You Memorize or Internalize

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you may end up somewhere else.” – Yogi Berra.

20191209_172005Do you memorize or internalize your speeches? Memorizing requires that you remember every word of your speech in a particular order. When you internalize, you remember the points, thoughts, and organization of your speech to arrive at your ultimate goal, your purpose, and your destination. You never start a journey without knowing your destination. As Yogi Berra is known to have said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you may end up somewhere else.” You should know where you are going before you start. When you prepare a speech, the first thing you should think about is what you will say last – why! Because your last words will always linger.

Your organization, plan, and purpose should be in focus as you start your speech. Your conclusion is your takeaway, the decisive factor, your final appeal to close the deal. When your preparation, plan, and purpose are clear to you, you are in a much better position to communicate your message to an audience. The more you know about your topic, the better you are prepared for the unexpected. No one can predict what will happen when you are on the platform; however, if you are intimately familiar with your topic, you can speak from the heart, which always makes a better connection with your audience. Know where you are heading and stay with the plan and remember, arriving at your destination with your audience is the goal.

After you have internalized your conclusion, your next step is to decide how you will start your speech. You should also decide how you will achieve your ultimate goal, winning and holding the attention of your audience. While it is impossible to predict the mood of the room you will inherit, it is wise to have an opening you can deliver with a bang or with just an audible whisper. Where you take your audience from that opening is what matters most. After you take ownership of the room and platform, lead your audience on your journey as a guide will. Make sure everyone is following along with you every step of the way. Read your audience as you take them along with you. Eye contact with your audience will tell how you are doing.

With the opening and closing of your speech clearly defined internally, logic should now be your guide. Your next step is to construct a bridge from your opening to the closing while making sure it is logical. The length and size of your bridge depend on the amount of speaking time allotted. Each section of your bridge should flow logically into the next. Assign a name for each transition. The name you assign will be your guide to delivering the presentation in the correct order, like milestones of the journey. Remembering the names of each section is now the roadmap you will follow to your destination.

Like any journey, expect the unexpected; however, when you are clear about where you are heading – if you have to make a detour, no one should be made aware. Repeat the last point before you went off course with emphasis. Do again, and again if you need more time to gather your thoughts, then get back on your path and continue with confidence. Smile and keep your secrets to yourself. Some speakers even use prepared statements for those unguarded moments. Get back on track and continue to make each of your points, thoughts, and vignettes fit seamlessly.

You should know when you have arrived at your destination. If you have made a connection with your audience, you should sense when you have made your point or sealed the deal. Keep your purpose and destination in mind, and you will know when it is time to go to your closing. After delivering your closing, be silent, stop, your mission is accomplished. Without preparation, a plan, and a purpose, the best plan is to forget giving the speech altogether.  With a strong, well-prepared opening, closing, and the memorable names assigned to each section of your bridge, you will reach your destination successfully, if you don’t try to memorize. Internalize!

Speaking with Style Substance & Clarity

Speak to the head, the heart, or the pocketbook

20190423_144540The dream of every speaker is to deliver their presentations with style, substance, and clarity. If your purpose for speaking is clear and relevant to the audience you are facing, that dream can become a reality. Your goal may be to promote a cause, improve your image or the image of your organization, sell products and services, answer questions, inspire others, or explain a process. Whatever that purpose is, it must echo throughout your presentation from the title to the end. One World Champion of Public Speaking calls that echo, the scarlet ribbon effect.  

There are four speech-types, most presenters use to achieve their purpose for speaking.  INFORMATIVE, PERSUASIVE, INSPIRATIONAL, AND ENTERTAINING. While a speaker’s primary focus may be on one of the four types, to craft an outstanding speech; the speaker should try to blend all four types seamlessly to convey their message. When your purpose is clear, connecting with your audience depends on your passion, knowledge of the topic, and delivery. Try keeping the scarlet ribbon effect as your guide, when considering your topic selection as you progress to a final decision, 

Next, you should do a Q & A to evaluate your options. Some questions to consider are:  

  • How well do I know this topic?
  • What are my available resources?  
  • How passionate am I about this purpose or story?
  • What do I want to accomplish with this speech?
  • Can I accomplish my entire purpose and speech in the allotted time?

Timing is everything when moving from being informative to persuasive, to inspirational or entertaining. As the speaker progresses through the four types, it is crucial to decide on your Speech Strategy. The speaker must sense the right time to speak to the head, the heart, or the pocketbook if a sale is your purpose. A Speech Strategy should also be an essential part of your preparation and practice. After you have successfully touched the heads and hearts of your audience, they will always be happy to join in to take part in the heavy lifting – your purpose.  

When a speaker can convince an audience to think, do something, feel differently, or make a change to their life or the life of others, that speaker has achieved the true purpose of public speaking. In that crucial moment of silence, after you have finished speaking if your audience can’t wait to take some action, rest assured you have realized your dream. You have just delivered another speech with style, substance, and clarity.  

Impromptu Speaking – Stand & Deliver

Sell your answer with your summary.

20190317_122341
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.

Clarity is Key to Good Communication

Great speaking comes from having a clear focus on your message

20181207_093125It is often said that clarity is the key to good communication and public speaking. Public speaking is a skill everyone has to embrace at some time or another; however, over time as speakers, we come to realize that “all speaking is public speaking”. Every day, we communicate requests, opinions, and ideas with family, friends, and associates. The more we exchange communication, the more it becomes evident that communication is not only what you said, but also what the listener thinks you said or is saying.

The following are a few concepts anyone can start practicing today, to become a more effective communicator. These principles can be career-enhancing when practiced daily. They can unleash a whole new perspective in the way you communicate. Speakers can also start applying them to presentations, conversations and your communications with family, friends, and colleagues. They will also significantly improve how you respond in your daily interactions with others. They will help you develop who you are as a communicator.

One of the first requirements of good communication is, getting people to listen to you. How to get audiences to stop, look at you and listen is a question all speakers must try to resolve. Before a speaker utters their first words, they should make sure they have the complete attention of their audience. The challenge then becomes how to hold that attention. Begin with a voice inflection that commands your listener’s attention. Also, use appropriate body language to let your listener know you are ready to establish a line of communication.

If one of the parties tune out or disconnects, it is like having a bad phone connection. Communication is over. While still connected, you should envisage how you are going to hold your audience’s attention. A good strategy is to strive to be entertaining while you are informing or being informed. Listen before you interject. Go with the flow.  If you can entertain and inform at the same time, the flow of information between the speaker and listener will be greatly enhanced.

Great speaking comes from having a clear focus on your message. Quips; witty communication will often keep the conversation alive and memorable.  Well placed quips will often have the effect of an echo long after you and your listeners have disconnected. When used in speeches, quips can bring clarify your message.  Give your messages a voice. Make your audience stop, look at you and listen to you while you entertain and inform. And the day will come when you be respected not only as a good speaker but also as a great communicator.