Polishing Your Speech

Removing some of the glitter allow the speaker to shine.

20200216_112006Polishing your speech is a critical process all speakers should perform before you take their speech to the platform. You have answered all the essential questions – You have written and rewritten your speech – You have practiced, edited, and reedited your presentation. Now your decisive moment has arrived. You must now polish your speech for presentation. What is going to be your strategy? Are you going to stay polished all the way, or are you going to leave a little rust for the finished product to appear original, genuine, and authentic? That is a question you must now answer.

One approach is to look for power statements in your speech. Power statements similar to your foundational statement speech can have a lingering effect on your audience. They should be one of your prime targets. Practice the phrases and stressing the keywords in those statements.  Tell your story to make a point. Those words will bring your statements to life. Make sure that statement is relevant to your message. Ask yourself how I can spotlight that statement as I practice my delivery. I have known speakers to use the familiar green, yellow, and red highlighters to highlight and serve as reminders as they practice their polishing. Try it – it works.

The part of your speech that has universal appeal should also be your focus. Polish but also keep in mind that old saying, all that glitters is not gold. As you approach critical portions of your presentation, ask yourself which of the three H’s apply. The three H’s are Head, Heart, and Heavy lifting. What am I appealing to – the Head, Heart, or do I now want my audience to do my Heavy Lifting. When you can engage your audience by polishing your point just enough to touch their three H’s – you would have achieved your goal. You have made a connection.

Removing some of the glitter allow the speaker to shine. As you complete your polishing, it is wise to make sure you did not sacrifice that which is most important to your audience – clarity. When your polishing can help your clarity your point, it is most effective. At times, all it takes is replacing a verb or an adjective in a sentence. Some toastmasters use speech brighteners, which I have mentioned in previous postings. Brighteners can make your point stick. For example – He was the kind of person who has had a lifelong romance. At an early age, he fell in love with himself. Also, they can also reinforce a point – He is the boss who was seeking a secretary in her thirties with forty years’ experience.

Polishing can be fun. I learned years ago that when you are polishing and don’t wear gloves – your hand can get dirty – so be careful. Once the exercise is over, remove your gloves and, with clean hands, give that presentation. It is now a presentation you wrote – rewrote, edited, re-edited, polished, and is now ready, like a well-prepared dish, to be served to your audience on the platform.

The Preacher and the Farmer

Our bounty is the spoken word

20200326_105949There is an old story often told about a Farmer and a Preacher both standing side by side, admiring the bounty the Farmer’s farm had produced. The preacher said to the Farmer, “Wow – what a beautiful farm you and the Lord have here.” The Farmer smiled and replied – “yes, for sure, my skills helped, but you should have seen it when the Lord had it all to himself.”

There are many lessons one can glean from that story. However, my take was the Farmer, in his wisdom, was referring to the preachers who often comment on the results. Many have no idea of the humble beginning, which leads to that end. I do believe the Farmer was also making the point that the skills you develop are your blessings, but its hard work that produces your bounty.

Many years ago, I was asked by my first coach, if you had the choice to be mentored by an MBA or a Farmer, who would you choose. Completely forgetting that old story, I selected the MBA. My coach favored the Farmer. But over the years, my coach made me realize how much Farmers and Public Speakers have in common. Time made me realize why my coach chose the Farmer and not the MBA. He also felt that some of the latter are fake and full of it, fertilizer if you wish to be kind.

If you were to take some time to examine the work ethic Public Speakers and Farmers must possess, you too will recognize the similarities and their differences. Both the Farmer and Public Speaker are well aware of the importance of being prepared. They both are mindful of how critical it is to practice best practices. Also, they both are aware that the bounty they produce is not for themselves, but their audiences and customers.

Farmers and speakers know, to succeed, you must supply the market with what it needs. They both know you must bring your best products to the market. They know the importance of rotation. Long before they plant that first seed, they know their soil has to be well prepared. They also know better than anyone; that it is not if, but when things go wrong, you must have a solid backup plan in place. Public speakers require a different set of skills; however, their objectives are all the same – Excellence! Excellence that demands that you always do your best and not that you always be the best.

A common mistake some speakers make is, believing they must always give a new speech each time they face an audience. That is like asking the Farmer to bring a new product each time they go to market.  Time has shown me that the repeated performances of a task will more often than not result in improvement over past efforts. I highly recommend the good, better, best approach, which I regularly use. Good better best, never let your good speeches rest, until they become your better, and your better speeches your best.

The gift of speech is one of the remarkable skills we possess. It is a gift we must not take for granted. Our bounty is the spoken word. Language in all its beauty is our gift to all humankind. As a Public Speakers, I believe when you dedicate your life to be of service to others, just as the Farmer does daily, you too will one day be able to say to the preachers admiring your bounty, yes it took some skills – but you should have heard me when I did my very first icebreaker.

Your Signature Speech

Do you remember cursive.

20200208_165442_resized (1)Do you have a signature speech? One, you can jump out of bed at any time, any place, anywhere to deliver with substance, style, and confidence. Every speaker should have one. While this may sound difficult for most speakers to do, especially those who try to create their masterpiece in a single sitting, I do believe developing  Your Signature Speech is achievable when you make a commitment to gracing the platform over a fair amount of time. It takes stage time, failures and you paying your dues before you begin racking up successes.

If you were to ask any speaker you admire, how did you manage to get to where you are today? If they were to truthfully share their secret, you will realize their Signature Speech was not something they did or sat down and created; it is something they achieved by developing their speaking muscles over time.  And what are those muscles?  The messages you develop, the ability to connect with audiences, and the willingness to go that extra mile.  With the blood, sweat, and tears you put into achieving Your Signature Speech there is always the hope one-day it will pay off huge dividends. And the earlier you open that account, the better. 

Long before I even had my first bank account, I began developing my cursive writing signature skills – Do you remember cursive. Is it still around?  I knew the day would come when I would have to face a banker to sign my first check. Who wants to look stupid doing that, I thought? I worked on that signature until I felt it was unique, authentic, and worthy of representing me. I felt proud of what I had produced. I felt and still believe it is the symbol of my identity to the world. Yes, I’ was moving on up. 

As I got older and began using that signature, I  continued experimenting with different versions of my signature, until I settled on one which I could identify immediately. I kept working even further until I decided on a version I felt one day would be worth a million dollars. Not there yet, but still working on it. However, when that day came to face that banker, I looked him in eye and proudly delivered, and you know what he said? One day that signature will be worth a million dollars – Not there yet – but I’m still working on it.

By applying the same principle I used to refine my cursive signature to speech writing, I  began developing my Signature Speech. Today, I am still a work in progress. As my journey continues, I am getting more and more comfortable with my ability to speak anytime, anyplace, anywhere with substance, style, and confidence. The more I take my Signature Speech to the platform, the more stage time and little tweaks I make along the way, consciously or sometimes subconsciously, the more I see that speech developing into my masterpiece. In that Signature Speech, my audiences also immediately recognize my style, my rhythm, my cadences, and even my isms – the symbols of my identity to the world – Just like that cursive signature, I use almost every day of my adult life. And, who knows one day, that signature speech may also be worth a million dollars – I have a dream – Who said that?

One of the many challenges speakers all face while developing their Signature Speech is? “Making it modular”. Speakers should be able to add or remove modules from that speech at will or at a moment’s notice.  You may prepare a ten or fifteen-minute presentation for your audience. But upon your arrival at the venue, you discover that is a change in the schedule and you are now asked to speak for five or perhaps twenty-five minutes. What do you do? You add or remove modules from your speech. It happens not to some but to us all. I have seen some speakers try using pauses to turn their five-minute speeches into seven or into a ten to fifteen and fail miserably. However, when you know your subject matter well enough to make significant changes to your presentation instantly and make it appear seamlessly, you are ready to face any audience, anytime, anyplace, anywhere with Your Signature Speech.

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.