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.

The Number One Public Speaking Rule

“Omne Trium Perfectum”

IMG_4521 (1)Make the Rule of Three your number one rule of Public Speaking, and your message will be heard, understood, and repeated always, and forever. The Rule of Three is a powerful technique, which dates back to the beginning of time. The Romans practiced and applied this writing and speaking principle. They referred to it with the Latin maxim – “Omne Trium Perfectum” which means, “Everything that comes in threes is perfect.” Today, speakers used trios to make their presentations more engaging, enjoyable, and a lot more memorable. It is a tried, tested, and proven writing principle that is effective when conveying information with brevity, rhythm, and recall.

This Rule of Three manifests itself in many different ways on or off the platform.  It can add humor to your content. When the third example of a trio runs contrary to the first one or two, if the third is a twist or that which is unexpected, the result is natural humor. Many speakers use this technique when adding humor to content. The Rule of Three can also be applied when speakers are delivering persuasive speeches to rally support. A classic example is Winston Churchill’s famous Blood, Sweat, and Tears speech. Note his skillful us of the power of threes in the line: – “I can promise you nothing but blood, sweat, and tears.” And who will ever forget -Friends, Romans, Countrymen” – William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar.

Many more examples of the power of the Rule of Three are documented in the scriptures, nursery rhymes, and fairy tale. Three Little Pigs, Three Billy Goats Gruff, and The Three Musketeers are all examples. Even in sport, the Rule of Three sets the standard. In Baseball – “Three Strikes and you are out.”  It is a well-established fact that humans can only hold a small amount of information in their short term or ‘active,’ memory. When content is presented in a group of threes, trios, a pattern is generated with a natural rhythm. The ordering and patterns created are easily stored in the brain for quick recall, from our short-term memory in “chunks.” Audiences remember those chunks and small patterns of information easier than longer phrases or sentences.

Speakers, we are all taught a speech should have an opening, body, and closing. Some Public Speaking coaches can look at a soft-copy or script of a speech and tell if that speech will be “Good Bad or Ugly.” As you prepare your content, practice, and apply the principle of threes. Make it your number one writing principle. Focus on the Rule of Three as you create your content. Try structuring your format like a play:- act one, act two, and act three.

Your act one, two and act three format will help your audience grasp your material quickly and even make the scenes you have created more visual. Your storyline and message will also be easier to follow. Practice using the “act one, act two, act three structure, and you will also find it helps with your delivery when you are on or off the platform. Make the Rule of Three your number one rule of Public Speaking, and your message will be heard, understood, and repeated, always and forever.

Your Magic Moment

A magic moment can be scripted or spontaneous

IMG_6565Every speech should have a magic moment; a moment not even passing of time will erase. Your magic moment can be a simple event like a long pause, a memorable sentence, or a phrase that connects with your audience, leaving all present with an unforgettable feeling. It is a feeling that adds your signature to the experience you shared with that audience. Magic moments can be the great equalizer. When a speaker  is able to produce one of those moments on the platform, it transcends all human boundaries. That moment serves as a reminder that we are all connected emotionally.

The six emotions that connect us all are happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust. We all respond to these emotions that dwell deep within us when we communicate. We share these emotions as we interact with each other in various aspects of our lives. Great orators past and present have used those emotions to set the stage for their memorable lines or events that make whatever followed that emotional connection in their speech timeless. What is magical about their moment is it may have been a brief or random event received or perceived in some unique way by their audience.

A magic moment can be scripted or spontaneous. Some of the best lines that immediately come to mind are those that were timely or unexpected. Although a response may have sounded spur of the moment, we associate that magic moment with that speaker forever. Long after the speaker has completed speaking, their words continue to linger. What matters most are the emotions speaker and audience rekindle. They often relate to the moment and the experience of their past. When speakers can make a deep emotional connection with their audience with words or deed, that shared experience makes for a unique magic moment.

The size of your magic moment does not matter. What matters most is the size of the impact it has on an audience; however, if the moment appears to be overdone, ill-timed, or not an appropriate fit for the speech or presentation, the magic is lost. When speakers can make their magic moment relate to the moments of others, an unbreakable bond is formed. It is a bond that makes us realize; we all belong to one world; we all are one people; we all share similar life experiences that live on forever in the hearts and minds of others, cemented in time as your magic moment.

Effective Listening

Make it your goal to be an effective listener.

20190317_120113Listening can be active or passive. It is the practice of taking what you hear and extracting meaning. Active listening is the ability to comprehend and repeat what you have heard. Passive listening is the practice of sitting quietly without responding verbally, as we so often do when listening to music, a podcast, or the news. But, have you ever given a second thought about what kind of listener you are. Are you an active or passive listener? Do you focus on what the speaker said or more about what the speaker meant to say? Those questions may answer if you are active or passive, but more importantly, if you are an Effective Listener.

Effective listening is more of an active skill. Effective listeners practice being present and are in the moment. Although effective listening requires the development of specific techniques for receiving, organizing, and interpreting information, when communicating with others, we should also be mindful that effective listening is an exchange of energy between speaker and listener. Listening and speaking is the act of giving and receiving the flow of thoughts, feeling, and energy, both positive and negative. How many times ‘your better half has had to ask, are you listening?

Even though listening is one of the essential communication skills we use most frequently, it is the skill we give our least attention. Have you ever had any training in effective listening? Effective listening can help us understand ourselves and better understand others. We all are guilty of not being in the moment when conversing to others. While we are listening, our brain will sometime begin to wander. Just as wandering eyes would never see, a wandering brain will seldom hear. Physically we may be there, but mentally if you are over there, wherever that over there is, you will not be practicing effective listening, and you would most likely hear – are you listening?

In the world of public speaking, there are fast talkers and slow listeners. Most speakers speak at an average rate of about 125 wpm- words per minute. Studies show we can process in the region of 400 wpm. This difference between speaking speed and thought speed means that when we listen to the average speaker, we are using only 25 percent of our mental capacity. Because we still have 75 percent to do something else, our minds will wander. I have found that if we practice slowing the brain down by controlling our breathing and energy, we will begin to see a significant improvement in how you receive, organize, and interpret what we hear. Make it your goal to be an effective listener. Effective listening is a skill that will help you identify vital information quickly and improve your daily interactions with others. The following are a few tips we all could practice to becoming an effective listener:

  • Respect the speaker’s point of view – Silence yours.
  • Relax and remain engaged – Breather naturally to control your energy.
  • Do not pass judgment – Remember nonverbal cues, body language, and gestures are indicators of how you are interpreting the information you are receiving.
  • Avoid interrupting. Wait for your turn. Ask clarifying questions to ensure understanding.
  • Give nonverbal cues to demonstrate your interest.
  • Conclude with a summary statement to demonstrate you clearly understood what the speaker said.

Whether you are an active or passive listener, it really doesn’t matter. What matters most is that you are present; you are in the moment, giving and receiving energy and above all, achieving your goal of being an effective listener.

The Art of Interpretation

Bringing words to life can be a daunting task!

20190704_140329The art of Interpretation is one of the essential disciplines speakers should attempt to master. Bringing words to life can be a daunting task for speakers and coaches. Some may ask, what is the art of Interpretation? Is it acting, well, not exactly! It is a multi-faceted dynamic style of speaking which demands the mastery of communicating your concepts, thoughts, and ideas by carefully combing words, tone, and body language. Some of the many other related fundamental requirements include breath control, good diction, vocal variety, rhythm, resonance, and phrasing. Mastery of each of these disciplines can completely change your audience Interpretation of the spoken word.

All speakers cannot fully acquire these requirements in a few short months. Certain concepts are more difficult to grasp than others immediately. It takes long and serious study and the development of best practices. Good speaking begins with proper breathing. There are two points to remember regarding the use of breath in speaking. (1) The speaker should inhale each breath quickly and deeply. (2) Its emission must be gradual and perfectly controlled to sustain, expand, or diminish their tone. The basis of breath control is good posture. Perfect posture makes inhaling easy. An active diaphragm and strong rib muscles provide the necessary perfection of controlling emission.

Speakers should also be aware that it is not the quantity of breath taken in, it is the managed column of air expelled, and that makes for an excellent speaking voice. Some additional physical requirements to produce a resonant tone are the loosening of the neck, jaw, throat, lips and tongue muscles and the regular recurrence of stressed and unstressed words, which creates rhythm in your speech patterns. It is those speech patterns, which add that distinctive quality to your tone and voice.

Tone and body language play an essential role in the art of Interpretation. While there are those who will say that Interpretation and acting are indistinguishable, there are notable differences. The speakers, who excel at this art, are those whose focus is on delivering a speech and not an act. They use verbal punctuation, correct pronunciation, and expression to connect with their audience while discovering the many joys and benefits of interpretation.

Speakers, challenge yourself to explore the use of neutral and weak vowels to heighten the effect of your tone.  Use body language to reinforce your punch lines by adding a punch look. Use silence to send your message. Be aware that sometimes your words may convey one meaning to your audiences while your tone and body language may be screaming something completely different.  And remember speakers,  what your audience decide to think, feel, or do after they have heard your speech, may depend on how well you have mastered the art of Interpretation.

Mentors Coaches And Protégés

Coaching can be part of mentoring, but mentors are not coaches.

20181207_093125Mentors and coaches have a long history of supporting and nurturing protégés through close working relationships with protégés. They offer encouragement and guidance while their protégés work on accomplishing their goals. Both mentors and coaches have the unique opportunity to share their expertise, wisdom, and knowledge while their protégé gains a foundation for building the necessary skills for achieving success in their endeavor. Mentoring or coaching can be a rewarding experience for a mentor, coach or protégé; however, although the roles of mentors and coaches may overlap, their roles and responsibilities are quite different.

Coaching can be part of mentoring, but mentors are not coaches. Coaches are responsible for their protégés meeting specific short-term goals. Common goals a coach can effectively facilitate are skills-based and are specific. Coaches focus on the short-term accomplishment of a goal or, the development of a single skill.  For example, a coach can have a powerful impact when a member wants to enhance or develop their use of pauses, vocal variety or gestures when preparing to deliver a presentation. A coach will assume the responsibility for providing the steps for the protégé to meet their presentation goals by giving specific feedback and direction to a protégés as they prepare for that single event. The coach determines the tasks and steps for the protégé to achieve a successful outcome.

The Mentor’s role is different. The mentor’s role is to provide support as the protégé takes personal responsibility for working toward the accomplishment of broader goals over an extended period. An experienced and knowledgeable mentor knows the value of their wisdom.  They also know how to balance sharing their expertise while allowing their protégés to learn on their own. For example, the protégé may choose to discuss their experiences while working on a challenging project and to share the knowledge they gained by trial and error. A mentor can support a protégé by listening to their thoughts, concerns, and challenges faced, and offer advice for handling similar situations in the future. The mentor offers advice, however, it is the protégé who determines the necessary tasks and steps for their success.

When the primary functions of mentors and coaches are clearly understood by the protégé, the chances of a successful outcome are much higher. Mentors and coaches should identify the needs of the protégé by asking probing questions and listening to the specific needs and goals.  An initial interview is one of the best ways for a mentor or coach can determine the role best suited for a particular protégé.  By listening and noting differences, but focusing on commonalities, a coach or mentor can enhance their relationship and partnership with a protégé. A tailored approach to suggestions and feedback, designed to coordinate with the protégé’s goals and personality, will often form a strong bond and a foundation for the success of mentor coach and protégé.

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Effective Coaching

Coaches should tailor their style to match situational expectations

20190317_120113Although Effective Coaching may very well be the best path a speaker can take in becoming a better speaker quicker, there is a belief held by some experts that not all speakers are coachable. Without a doubt, I believe that with a better understanding of our different Communication Styles and with Effective Coaching, both speaker and coach can come to realize that all speakers are coachable. Yes, even those who choose to take the scenic or Columbus route to their destination.

When both speakers and coaches understand their different Communication Styles and are willing to work with each other honestly, the results can be rewarding for both speaker and coach. Communication Styles are often situational; however, good coaches will determine how to improve relationships by mastering and adapting their application of Communication Styles based on situations. Coaches should tailor their style to match situational expectations. Both speaker and coach must also identify their preferred style of communication very early in their collaboration to decide if their styles may affect the building of a trusted relationship in the future.

Speakers should be able to identify and understand their primary style of communication from their everyday interactions with colleagues, friends, and family. How a person is known to be from daily interactions with others, cannot be magically changed by coaching or by them stepping unto a speaking platform. Who or what you are all about will be revealed when you step in front of an audience.

You know best if your everyday style of communication leads to positive or negative reactions when interacting in creative groups at work, in personal or family relationships. Coaching can help speakers decide if their current style may be a problem or is valid based on feedback and outcomes or if they should consider adopting a new style of communication. Selecting a different style is not an easy fix. Styles can change with time, practice, and Effective Coaching, however, both speaker and coach must be prepared to answer the following questions as they begin that journey.

  • When might the speaker want to adjust their communication style?
  • How can an understanding of their communication style improve their interactions with others?
  • How does their preferred communication style impact others as listeners?
  • How can the speaker tailor their communication style to match situational expectations?

When working with speakers, coaches can achieve positive results if both speaker and coach are also mindful of the following. Direct Communicators prefer their coach to get to the point quickly and succinctly. Avoid over-explaining or repeating yourself. Focus on solutions and only provide details when asked. Initiating Communicators value interacting with others and sharing stories. Allow them time for socializing by creating a friendly, non-threatening environment. Provide time to express feelings and opinions.

Supportive Communicators appreciate a calm, steady approach. Earn trust by providing plenty of reassurance. When seeking their opinions and ideas, encourage them to express their concerns, and allow time to make decisions. Analytical Communicators like facts and figures. They prefer information presented in an organized manner. Be prepared to answer questions. Be patient while they think through and process new information.

Effective Coaching requires the building of an ongoing trusted relationship between speaker and coach. Anyone can provide feedback, but it takes Effective Coaching to elevate a speaker to their next level and beyond. Good coaches can see blind spots and potential that can change a speaker or a speech from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Let those who choose to be like Columbus be a Columbus. It is all part of the journey. Let them go out and test their feedback. With those experiences, they too will learn, it takes an Effective Coach and Effective Coaching to see the unseen, to think the unthinkable and to try the untried with confidence. And, I do believe that when both coach and speaker realize the value of understanding different Communication Styles and the priceless value of Effective Coaching, they too will come to believe that with honesty, time and patience, all speakers are indeed coachable.

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