Monday, May 18, 2009

When does "competent" become an insult?

Thanks for the feedback on my series on the fear of public speaking, I have just completed the first volume an audio series "Ending your fear of public speaking" which will be for sale on my site and on itunes soon. This last weekend I did a keynote and two workshops for the Toastmasters district 21 conference in Whistler B.C. and I have been asked to train the Coca Cola team that will accompany the Olympic torch in 2010, so life is busy.I will continue with my series on eliminating the fear of public speaking shortly but would like to do something a little more interactive right now and hear some of your opinions.

  Practicing a speech is often a good idea but it is difficult to enjoy a speech that sounds practiced. This is also true with different strategies and techniques that are used within a speech. I sometimes see people deliver speeches that are very tight and well packaged and follow a lot of the book advice that is out there but far from being impressed, I'm actually put off. I would rather see someone fumble through their content, but in a very genuine way. 

So at what point is it that compentence becomes a liability and all those skill sets and methods hold you down instead of building you up? I'd like to know your opinions and hear your stories on the subject. 

Thanks! Chris



Sunday, May 10, 2009

End your fear of public speaking - Part 2 – “Tricks”

   In the last blog I covered some of the things to consider before you even start writing your speech – things that will help you to determine how to write a speech that will really suit your own style and personality and… easy to remember. One thing that was covered was the fact that it is important to define the points that you need to make - I’d now like to move on to a few simple tricks that you can use when you are actually writing a speech that will help make those points clearer, stronger and yes…. easier to remember. The idea is to make a speech that you really connect with so you have greater confidence in it, can deliver it with conviction and can retain and relate it with ease.


 It is interesting to note that I use the term “easy to remember”. There is single word that can be used instead of a phrase: memorable, but memorable seems to have a different connotation that “easy to remember”. Memorable seems to refer to the point of view of the listener while easy to remember refers to the person delivering the speech. There is a value to be gained from the association between the two. While a speech that is easy to remember may not necessarily be memorable, a memorable speech is usually easy to remember and if you design your speech to be memorable you’ll have an easier time remembering it. It’s a win in two directions.


Trick #1 – Points and Themes

                                                     While this may sound like basic structure rather than a trick but the trick lies in not in the use but the emphasis - pay real attention to the points and themes in your speech and then push them when you are actually delivering the speech. At all times your audience is asking, consciously or sub-consciously “what’s your point?”  So make sure you always let them know what your point is. If you are giving out a long list of facts, or telling a long story, tell them why. A theme is basically a substructure that can contain one or many points. Some types of themes include:


a)      Analogies –  great for providing clarity and a fresh perspective

b)      Stories – good for engaging crowds and giving context

c)      Referring to characters – not for everybody, but this can be very effective

d)      Catch-phrases  - a perennial favourite for good reason

e)      Summarized ideas – e.g.: things run in cycles



Trick #2 Repetition

                                  At first it might seem like repetition is something you should avoid in a speech. You don’t want to sound like you are just repeating yourself over and over, or appear as though you forgot that you just said the same thing a moment ago. Repetition, when it’s used deliberately can be very useful. Think of some of the most famous speeches in history, most of them relied heavily on repetition.


“ We will fight them on the beaches, we will fight them with growing strength and growing confidence in the air, we will fight them in the fields and in the hills ……”


Identify some of the places in your speech that really deserve emphasis and then determine which word or phrase to repeat. Sometimes you can go one step further with this and use trick #3.



Trick #3  Catch-phrases and monikers

                                                                   Aside from providing structure for themes catch phrases are great things to use in general. They stick in peoples minds, lend themselves to repetition and can also provide a pinch of humour every now and then. You don’t have to be any great wordsmith to come up with a catch phrase, don’t be afraid to use something that’s well known, (use it or lose it, let sleeping dogs lie etc.) the cliché is permissible when used as a catch phrase to put a point across and if you have followed the advice in the previous blog you will have a genuine connection with your material which is the most important thing. Having said that, if you can create something really original, even better… go for it. A moniker similar to a catch phrase but is a substitute name for something. You might not use the word moniker but you use monikers – “the head honcho” is a moniker. A good moniker can be memorable and also sum up the essence of something


Trick #4 – The Bow-tie

                                        The bow-tie refers to the summary that occurs at the end of a speech that brings together all the main points that you want to leave your audience with. It should be more than just a summary though. Really pay attention and put some extra effort into crafting this section because it will serve not only as a reminder to your audience of all your main points but also as a reminder to you. When you are practising your speech make specific reference to really remembering this section because if you have that solidly in your mind you can always refer to it and it will connect you with all the most important parts of your speech. A good bow-tie is also advisable because it gives some polish to a speech and can make you look like a real pro – at the crucial point, right at the end.


These are just a few ideas to take note of. They may just sound like common sense but pay attention to them and they will pay real dividends providing you with a presentation that is both memorable and….. easy to remember.



Monday, May 4, 2009

End your fear of public speaking – part 1

I had quite a bit of interest in my blogpost "The imaginary fear of public speaking" where I addressed the subject in a general way.I would now like to start a series that covers some practical solutions to this all too common concern.


One of the greatest fears that people have regarding speaking in public is forgetting what they are going to say. To be standing up in front of a group of people and not having a clue what the next word, the next sentence, the next idea, is supposed to be. Just standing there silent and frozen …… nobody wants that. The standard method people have to deal with this is to write their script and then try desperately to remember it word for word. This process is often a real trial and made all the more difficult by not considering certain aspects of the way that the speech has been put together. There a few simple strategies that will help you produce a speech that is easier to remember and truer to your own personality and views.


There are two sources of knowledge that you can draw on to ensure that you are never lost in the middle of a speech: knowledge of the material and knowledge of the script.

While I can’t teach you how to improve the knowledge of your material I can point out that understanding the nature of your knowledge of the material will help you with the process of writing and delivery. The first step of this process is all about defining your connection with the material. Some people are fortunate enough to speak about subjects that feel truly passionate about, but not all of us are that lucky. Quite often we find ourselves speaking about dry subjects that we are sick of hearing about ourselves. To a certain degree it’s unavoidable, but you can make the best of a bad situation.


Start of by clearly defining the exact information that must be put across and the exact message(s) that this information is intended to convey. Strip it down to the essentials and if you are still information heavy, consider transferring some of the details to powerpoint or printed material that your audience has at their table. Once this is done you should then think about the connection(s) that you have with the material at hand.


a)      Is there an underlying idea or concept behind the information that you can point out, sum up or even attach a catchphrase to? If so, write it down and then harness that potential in your speech. Repetition of main points and the use of monikers and catch-phrases make material more memorable to both you and your audience.


b)      Are there aspects of it that you feel more strongly about? Even the driest subjects usually involve some emotional content, even if it is just feeling passionate about an idea or technology involved. Some people communicate very well by drawing on their emotional attachments to a subject, if you feel you are one of those people then summarize your emotional attachment to the material and bear it in mind while you are writing your presentation.



c)       Have you had experiences that relate to the ideas and subjects at hand? If so, consider using them. People have a natural tendency to organize a speech with a purely logical framework: get the information/ideas – explain them logically to the audience. The problem with this is, that not all people communicate most effectively in a logical framework. Some people relate things well through experience which can involve telling stories, or referring to characters. When relating stories, make sure to be careful to stay very close to the point you are trying to make – is it relevant or is it gone – but consider the use of stories/experiences. Think about whether you like relate to things through stories when talking to friends, if you do, then consider how to use this in your presentations. Define your strengths and work with them.


These is just a rough outline of a few beginning steps – I will be back with more on the blog soon, and I am always more than happy to work with individuals or groups in greater detail – stay in touch and …. thanks!



Site Meter Digg!