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.

Speaking Humorously

The three Rs + Tagging your funny lines on the fly

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Your Story

To sell a story, it is crucial that you know the story inside out.

20190720_114843Storytelling is as old as life itself. It has been a form of communication since the beginning of time. Through our oral traditions, many stories have been preserved, retold, and sold through different mediums. Some stories have survived many generations and will continue to survive as long as we value the art of creating and telling stories. Stories may serve many purposes in speech. I once heard it said al long time ago, that the secret to developing a speech is to make a point then tell a story. Make another point, tell another story. Stories help your audience visualize and make a connection with your point. Telling a story to make your point can also help you, the speaker overcome resistance, explain difficult concepts, or teach valuable lessons.

To sell a story, it is crucial that you know the story inside out. You should be able to pick up the story from any point in the narrative to proceed seamlessly. When you can say with confidence I know my story, that confidence gives you the speaker the freedom to transport your audience back to a time and place. The speaker can then feel free to make an emotional connection with the audience and the story. That approach is one proven way to bring your spoken words to life by being in the moment as you sell the story.

Stories can help you keep your audience’s attention. Activity is one of the critical factors simply because ideas that move tend to attract attention. Always try to keep your story moving forward.  Focus on the here and now. Try to not get stuck in the past. As you move from past to present and back, use movement or positions on the stage to help your audience follow your story. Another sure way to reinforce your connection with any audience is by taking a familiar concept and presenting it abstractly or unusually. Present the idea in a manner to which your audience can relate.

Conflict and suspense are also useful techniques to hold your audience attention. Introduce your conflict and suspense early in the speech. Light a fire and build the tensions to a climax through to the end of your speech. Break up the tension with bits of humor. Humor allows your audience to participate as you speak. The laughter humor generates is often the pause that refreshes for both speaker and audience. Wherever possible, use dialogue. In that conversational style, you will find many opportunities to add fun to your speaking. Create vivid images with words to visualize the scene you are creating. If you can make your audience see it, they are more inclined to believe it.

Leaving your audience satisfied is the key to receiving a thunderous round of applause. Avoid saying the dreaded, in summary. Use the good old tried and proven “tell your audience what you told them” in a manner that does not appear to be you repeating yourself. Leave with a call to action. Close with some reference to your opening and finally add a moment of silence to send your message as you end your speech. These are a few proven techniques that are known to work. Develop your own one day you too would be known as a great contributor to the art of storytelling and who knows, even story selling.

Your Purpose is Everything

Your presentation should include a foundational statement:

20190430_124248.jpgEvery speech must have a clear purpose. The main objectives when speaking in public are to inform, persuade, actuate or to entertain. But although those purposes are not mutually exclusive, each is sufficiently discrete to be treated as an individual purpose.  Speakers should be very clear about what they want their listeners to think, feel or do after they have heard your presentation.

Your presentation should include a foundational statement. That statement should be short and laser-focused on the selected topic. A lengthily general statement is of little value until it is narrowed down to a manageable size and purpose. A series of why questions will help narrow the topic and help you define your foundational statement.

  • The first obvious why question should be, why that particular topic.
  • The second, why that particular audience would be interested in listening to you speak on that subject.
  • Thirdly why that topic is appropriate for that particular audience and occasion.
  • Lastly, can that topic be adequately addressed in the allotted time?

As the speaker answers the why questions they have chosen, they should also keep in mind the general purposes for public speaking. Generally, speakers speak to be heard, to be understood, and to be repeated while focusing on the central idea and the key message they are communicating.

  •  If the purpose is to inform, there should be a clear understanding of your message.
  •  If the objective is to persuade, your focus should be on getting listeners to accept your message, claim or idea.
  •  If it is to actuate, you want the focus on your audience taking some action.
  •  Speeches to entertain focuses on providing amusement and enjoyment to listeners, however, all presentations should include lighter moments to break tensions that may develop when speakers are on the platform.

Selecting a subject which the speaker already know something about and can find out more through research is of paramount importance. Whatever the speaker’s purpose is for speaking, natural humor will significantly increase your audience’s attention to the content being presented.

Speaking from personal experience while exhibiting goodwill and caring for the feelings of others increases credibility, however, your purpose will always go a long way in determining the success of your speaking occasions – Why because your purpose is everything.

Controlling Your Fear on the Platform

Don’t fight the fear. Embrace it!

20190425_185242Most speakers are conscious of the fact that the fear of public speaking-bug can strike at any time when they are on the platform. But with time and experience, when they begin to accept that all speaking in public is, in fact, public speaking the platform becomes less intimidating. Whether you are on or off the platform, it doesn’t matter. To be successful, speakers must learn to utilize the normal tension and nervousness associated with speaking in public. Don’t fight the fear. Embrace it. Tension can give speakers energy. It can make speakers more alert and make the difference between a compelling presentation and one that is dull and lifeless.

The act of speaking and proper breathing play a vital role in the process of reducing tension.  As you talk and discover that your audience accepts and understand what you are saying, your nervousness will dissipate. Physiologically, your body is using up the excess adrenaline it generated. Speaking aloud and moving with purpose reduces fear. Use body language to help you channel your energy as you show and tell your story. Be alive when you are on the platform, and your audience will respond positively to you and the topic you are presenting,

Topic selection and subject mastery are critical for your success. Select topics with which you are familiar and passionate about. Choose topics that will easily let you take your mind off yourself. Speech anxiety sometimes arises because of self-centeredness. Avoid being more concerned with your appearance and performance. Instead, focus on your audience and subject matter. Think more about introducing the subject and purpose of your talk rather than just starting your speech. Open with a statement that is simple, easy to say and engages your audience.  Choose statements that allow you to get to the point of your speech quickly and clearly.

Audience and situation analysis is also critical. The more you know about your audience and their expectations, the less you should have to fear. As you speak, feed off the positive non-verbal responses, you are receiving. The more you speak in public, the more you will become confident and be able to relax when you are on the platform. Speaking several times in front of the same group can help you reduce your fear; however, speakers should try to step out of their familiar surroundings to explore speaking in front of unfamiliar groups whenever possible. Over time and with repetition of the public speaking experience, you will realize and develop your own strategies for controlling your fear when you are on the platform