Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Down with "success-speak"

Much of the coaching I do involves helping people to learn skills and techniques to help them improve as public speakers but sometimes it happens that unlearning things shows itself to be more of a challenge than learning them. Let me explain.

There are a vast array of products and services available to people who wish to improve their public speaking ability and many of them are very good - I offer a heartfelt thanks to all those people who provide them. Much of what is available, however, is limited, misguided or flat-out bad. The main complaint I have to lodge is that these products and services create a style of presentation that while, efficient and practical, is ultimately empty and inhuman; a kind of "success-speak". This style of speaking lies somewhere between a radio dj and the stereotype of a used-car salesperson. These people know how to engage a crowd, how to put their points across and are frequently successful in business as a result. The question you might well ask is, "if it works, why do you have a problem with it?"

Alright, let's cut right to the chase. I do not coach people to help them earn more money, I coach them to give them a better understanding of what factors define the way they put together ideas and express them and then help them to take control of those factors and become better communicators. If they choose to use this power of expression to earn more money, which they certainly can, that's fine, if not, that's fine too. There are many other avenues they could explore relating to their creative aspirations and personal life as well. In fact, it may just be that by becoming a better communicator you will finally have the ability to express the fact that you truly hate the life that you live with your high paying job.

Going back to my original point of "unlearning"; I find it is often far more difficult to get people to drop the robotic "success-speak" habits than to teach them new information. A good rule to remember for most situations is to make sure that your speaking style is not that different from the way you would speak privately to good friends, not in content, but in tone and sincerity. We have enough technology to master in our lives without turning ourselves into robots so down with "success-speak" and up with the expressive person you really are.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Too casual or not too casual?

One of the greatest gifts that a speaker can possess is to be themselves; to speak in their own voice without being burdened by a constructed or artificial style. For some people this comes naturally, for others it takes time to define and learn to control the factors that define how the construct and deliver a speech. One interesting problem that I sometimes see is people who are comfortable and relaxed when they speak but so much so, it has actually created problems for them. What I’d like to do is briefly examine some of the advantages and disadvantages of using a casual style when public speaking.


The advantages of a casual style of speaking are fairly well documented and many people spend a great deal of time trying to perfect this approach.

A casual style:

1 - shows that you are comfortable and relaxed and puts your audience at ease.

2 - allows you to communicate in a genuine manner

3 - can help to diffuse tension and/or discontent in your audience

4 - means that the crowd feels as though they are listening to a real person and not just a factoid pitchperson


The disadvantages vary from person to person depending on how they demonstrate a “casual” style but here are just a few possible pitfalls.

A casual style:

1 - can often be delivered in a manner of speech that’s slightly faster and looser – and therefore content and emphasis can be lost.

2 - often ignores important devices that can be used to make your point – (eg: repetition, lists etc.)

3 - can cause you to lose your sense of authority. While you seldom want to push a crowd around, you do want to put across that you are an authority on your subject.

4 - can lead people to misinterpret your opinions or emotions. Sometimes people will see a casual attitude as one belonging to someone who does not really care about their topic.

In the end it is important to remember that while your audience does want to see “the real you” they also want to hear a well delivered speech so there is far more too it than just settling in and getting comfortable. Getting the full benefit from a more casual approach can only be achieved if you are meeting the broader objectives of your presentation so bear them in mind and try to maintain the best balance possible.

Thanks – let me know if you have any questions and …. stay loose,


n.b. – my new speaker coaching website is now up at:

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