Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How to Find the Best Sources of Stories, Anecdotes and Quotes for Your Speeches and Presentations

When you make public speaking your "magnificent obsession" you will find material for your speeches and presentations all around you. As a speaker you need to become an observer of life and not just people - all life. You can learn as much from observing nature and inanimate objects such as buildings as you can from watching people.

A news story, an incident, a casual remark in a conversation among friends or even with strangers can all provide inspiration for a story or vignette that can form material for your speech. If you are a speaker you need to carry a notebook and or recorder with you at all times so that you can immediately capture these moments of inspiration. If you don't they are likely to disappear into the ether.

If you are a speaker then it follows that you are also an avid reader and as you read certain combinations of words will leap off the page or screen and will resonate with you. These phrases and sentences will form some of the quotations that you will use in your speeches. Some of these quotations will be so powerful that they will generate stories of their own. Online sources of famous quotations include
thinkexist.com, brainyquote.com and wisdomquotes.com.

So that you don't have to spend time scouring newspapers and the like, you can sign up to a service such as Google Alerts so that you are notified of news stories that relate to your subject matter. You just need to select your key words and choose how often you wish to receive alerts. You will then have an automatic way to keep abreast of the latest news stories on topics of your interest. In this way you can keep abreast of breaking news stories and have fresh material to incorporate into your presentations.

However, your first port of call in finding material for your speeches and presentations is your own life. Scan your life and you are sure to find amusing anecdotes and life-defining moments. It is these stories and experiences that make you unique and, what's more, no one can tell these stories like you can. Even if others may later tell your life story, only you can tell in the first person.

At first, it may be a little disconcerting to expose yourself and your life in this way, and perhaps revealing your foibles, but it is this which helps you to build a connection with your audience. Your audience is not listening to you to judge you. They are listening because they too have their stories but they don't want their past to become their future. They are looking for a guiding light, for inspiration, and they will receive your message more readily if it is seen to have come from someone who isn’t perfect because this gives them hope that if you can overcome your limitations and then they too can overcome their obstacles and achieve success.

Material for your speeches is within you and all around you and, as you become consumed with the desire to become an eloquent and insightful speaker, it will reveal itself to you.

As Marcel Proust said,

"The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

How to Write the Perfect Speech

Don't! Bill Gove, known around the world as the father of professional speaking, says you should never set out to write a speech.

Doing this is like writing an article. Articles are meant for reading; speeches are meant for saying. Therefore, material written to be heard should be written differently than material to be read.

You want to engage your audience with a friendly, conversational tone and your material should be written with this in mind and not as though it were created to be read from a thick wad of A4 sheets while you stand behind a lectern.

So how do you go about writing the perfect speech? Think about your speech as being made up of small units or modules each capable of standing on its own. These modules are called vignettes and they are really individual stories as short as three to four minutes or longer depending upon the context of the speech. In this way you can combine eight to ten short vignettes to create a speech.

There are several advantages to constructing speeches in this way. When you build your catalogue of vignettes you can easily shorten or lengthen a presentation at a moment's notice and if you're in the speaking business, then at some time you will be placed in this position. Instead of sweating buckets or resorting to speaking like an automatic rifle you'll be able to say, "No problem."

Similarly, if you are asked to deliver an entire speech at short notice you will have the means to do so because you will simply need to decide on the points you wish to cover in your speech, select the appropriate vignettes and then combine them in a point then story fashion.

The vignette system makes a speech easy to remember, as you just have to remember several short stories. When you write an article it may seem to flow but try memorising it and it's another matter!

It also lends itself to a much easier cuing system for those times when your mind goes blank. You can just have a series of small cards each with the salient points on it. You can also just have one card that simply outlines the order of your speech to help keep you on track for those occasions when you go off on a tangent.

These stories will also be easy to remember because, in general, they will be personal to you. In other words, you will know these stories because they are your stories. When you go on stage you will be letting the audience into your world. This is what helps to build the connection between you and the audience.

Actually, your vignettes will be hard to forget because of the length of time you will spend preparing them. Wayne Burgraff said,

"It takes one hour of preparation for each minute of presentation time."

However, some may consider that to be a conservative estimate. You may think that it a long time but it will be time well spent because your vignettes will become part of your repertoire and you will have the opportunity to use them again and again even with audiences who may have heard you speak before. The greater the emotional impact the more often people will want to hear your stories. It's all about the way your stories make people feel.

Vignettes are lessons in story-form and so need to have a structure. They should all contain the following:

1. Premise
2. Problem
3. Pay-off

Your pay-offs are the number of laughs you can invoke per minute or the number of times per minute you can invoke an emotional response in your audience. Generally, you want a positive emotional response. You can allow your audience to feel low for a moment but you shouldn't leave them there for too long and you certainly want to end with your audience on an emotional high. As a rule, a good keynote speech, for example, should have at least one payoff per minute.

Hence, you can see why your vignettes have to be carefully crafted and while you allow your words to weave a story, every word you use should either add to your story or be eliminated. In other words aim to say more with less.

It's advisable to write a draft of your story, leave it and then hone it. Expect to do at least five re-writes. Then, when it's just about perfect add a few imperfections. Why? Because that's how we speak and so the imperfections make your speech sound more natural. And by imperfections I'm not talking about 'ums' and 'ahs' - these are not allowed.

For instance, you can indicate where you will pause as though searching for a word. If the audience is right there with you they will be searching for that word too, perhaps even making suggestions because they want you to continue. They want to hear the rest of your story.

So the next time you have to prepare a speech don't sit down and write an article:

1. Decide what lessons you wish to communicate;
2. Select a series of vignettes or short stories to convey this story; and
3. Organise your material so that it flows in a lesson then vignette or point then story format.

Finally, remember when it comes to delivering your speech talk to the audience rather than read to them. Leave reading to an audience for bedtime stories and you know what that leads to.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Importance of Credibility to the Public Speaker

The statistics on the PowerPoint slide made a deep impression on the participants and one of them asked for the source of the presenter's information. He replied an insurance company but did not give specifics. The question had been answered but we were none the wiser. Still I made a note of the statistics. I was intrigued.

Later I was writing an auricle and planned to incorporate the figures into it. I did some research to verify the statistics and to my surprise discovered that the most current research actually proved the opposite of what this presenter had said.

Yet, these statistics had formed a major part of his case for the product he was promoting. His whole argument fell apart and not because there wasn't any truth in the remainder of the content of his presentation but because he had lost credibility.

Once lost, credibility is hard to regain. When you are on stage, as a public speaker, you are viewed as an authority figure, an expert. People want to learn from you and be persuaded by you. Of course you can air your opinion but back it up with facts and be prepared to share your sources if necessary. If people ask for such information it is usually out of nothing more than curiosity - they want to learn more.

Brian Tracy describes credibility as "…the most important single word in marketing, selling and business that determines how much you earn, how often you earn it, your standard of living, your quality of life, the home you live in, the schools your kids go to and everything that happens to you in business."

If your audience feels they have been duped they will probably never trust you again. Dave Lakhani, an expert on persuasion, says that people are fundamentally looking for "salvation", whatever that might mean to the individual. If you mislead your audience, they will simply seek salvation elsewhere.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why You Should Master Public Speaking and Presentation Skills

Public speaking and presentation skills are skills that we all need at some time in our lives. Many people have a deep fear of public speaking and fear it more than even death.

"According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy."
Jerry Seinfeld

While you can't cheat death, anyone can learn to master public speaking and making presentations. Surely it would be better to master these skills than to quiver with mortal fear anytime you were asked to make a presentation? Wouldn't it be wonderful to see such requests as a great opportunity to sell yourself, your products and or services?

Now selling is one of the most loathed professions but everyone is in the business of selling whether you want to believe it or not. Nothing happens without a sale. Robert Louis Stevenson said "Everyone lives by selling something" and one of the world's greatest orators said:

"Half my lifetime I have earned my living by selling words, and I hope thoughts."
Sir Winston Churchill

Fundamentally, when you are engaged in public speaking or making a presentation you are selling words but it is your ability to organise and deliver words in a coherent, congruent and compelling manner that counts. To be able to sell effectively you must have great communication skills.

Dr Topher Morrison, master NLP Trainer and speaker said that a friend of his wanted to buy a Rolex watch. They visited a local shop in Tampa, Florida but because the salesman lacked good presentation skills his friend left without making a purchase. When you are about to spend thousands of dollars you want to be served in a particular manner. In fact, his friend took a trip to the Bahamas just to purchase his Rolex watch justifying the trip by saying the savings he made by buying the watch duty-free paid for the trip.

How much money are you losing every day because you lack public speaking and presentation skills?

John Childers, described as the "millionaire maker" and who teaches one of the world's most expensive public speaking training courses describes public speaking as "the world's most profitable skill." He has trained some of the biggest names in the public speaking arena - individuals such as Alex Mandossian, Armand Morin, Mark Victor Hansen, Mike Filsaime, Debra Johnson and the list goes on and on. They all know the value of using public speaking to grow their businesses. Irrespective of the different products and services they offer, they all use their public speaking skills to promote their products and services as well as those of others.

Through public speaking and making presentations you increase your visibility and the visibility of your company or organisation. You cannot achieve success if no one knows about you. Public speaking is one of the best ways to gain visibility and build your business. Arvee Robinson who describes herself as a "Persuasive Speech Coach" says that every time she speaks she get new clients.

How much is a new client worth to you?

Don't think that these skills are limited to standing on a stage in front of scores or even hundreds of people. Don't think that a presentation has to be hours long. It can be mere minutes. Christine Comaford-Lynch, author of "Rules for Renegades" said that she once camped out in the reception area of a company for six hours to get the opportunity to meet with its CEO. She wanted him to join the board of directors of one of her companies. If she was successful in her mission it would've have added enormous value to the perceived financial value of her company. Millions of dollars were literally at stake. After waiting for hours for a chance to speak to this CEO she had minutes to persuade to get on board. Can you see how critical presentation skills would be in a situation like this?

When you introduce yourself you use these skills. Do you want to make an immediate impact? Do you want to be a person that people gravitate towards and want to get to know? Or do you want to be the person that no one remembers. An introduction can last mere seconds and yet leave a lasting impression. You want that impression to be a favourable one.

Some people are natural orators but even they have to practice. The best professional public speakers spend years honing their craft. Dave Lakhani, speaker and author of "Persuasion: The Art of Getting What You Want" says:

"Speaking is a business and a process and processes are built on the back of education."

Through mastering public speaking and presentation skills you can build a career that will serve you a lifetime and can provide you with an income anywhere in the world. Even if you don't want to become a professional speaker through mastering your public speaking and presentation skills you can vastly improve your business profit margins and enhance the quality of your life.

Learn How You Can Become a Powerful & Highly Effective Public Speaker

I highly recommend the Bill Gove Speech Workshop. I have attended this workshop myself and can tell you that Steve Siebold and Dawn Andrews are excellent tutors. Many of the world's top speakers have attended this three day workshop. You will learn:
  • How to connect with your audience,
  • Where to find material,
  • The essential ingredients of any speech,
  • How to move on stage, and much more.
There is a 12-month follow-up programme to support you as you turn from amateur to pro. Check out full details by clicking the link below: