Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Speech Advice from Mary Poppins

Here's something we all know - but too often forget:

If your words say one thing and your delivery says the opposite, your audience almost always believes your delivery.

Watch the song "Stay Awake" from Mary Poppins, and let it serve as a gentle reminder of this principle:

From the Green Room: Synthesize your content and your delivery. If your words are meant to inspire and awaken, and your message doesn't match, you just might end up (in your case, unintentionally) putting your audience to sleep!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving and the Power of the Call to Action

Earlier this year, I discussed what we can learn from Abraham Lincoln's delivery style.

Now as Thanksgiving approaches, I want to focus on his content.

In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a National Thanksgiving Day

In his Thanksgiving proclamation, Lincoln spoke of the importance of gratitude in a time of profound national strife. But as eloquent as his words may have been, it was only his call to action that gave his statement such lasting impact:

I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and prayer to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

Lincoln's moving proclamation is a powerful reminder of the importance of including a clear action step in almost any speech.

Only rarely do we give a fully informative speech. Almost always, there is something we want our listeners to do.

We celebrate Thanksgiving each year as a national holiday because one leader called us to action. Each presentation is an opportunity not simply to inform but to influence change.

From the Green Room: Each time you prepare a presentation, ask yourself:

What do I want my audience to do after hearing me?

Then decide on a specific action.
Clarifying the goal beforehand will help guide and focus your presentation.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Don't Sacrifice the Eyes

Yesterday I led a presentation skills training for a group of nonprofit fundraisers.

As we practiced "connection techniques" (ways to use voice, body language, and eyes to connect with the listener), one participant asked,

"Many times, we have to make phone calls to people we don't know. How can we apply this training?"

I had a difficult time answering him.

On one hand, I could help him find ways to connect with a stranger over the phone. (vocal variation, warmth of tone, etc.) But really, I knew this would be insufficient.

Phone solicitations work when the listener has already made a commitment. The phone call merely seals the deal. The goal here is not connection - but rather completion.

The power of conversation can only be truly realized in a live format.

While so much is lost in non-live exchange, perhaps the greatest sacrifice is eye contact.

As a speaker, the most powerful way to engage your listener is by truly looking him in the eye. This is true whether you are speaking to an audience of 1 or 1,000.

On a fundamental level, human beings want to be seen.

And making eye contact is the most fundamental and the most powerful to do this.

From the Green Room: If you really need something from somebody, don't sacrifice your greatest asset - your eyes. Take the time to meet face to face and make sustained, direct eye contact. Even if you are speaking to a large group, this is the most powerful way to connect.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Welcome Your Guests

So often we begin a speech by thanking the audience or someone in the audience for asking us to speak. This small (arguably unnecessary gesture) perhaps unknowingly puts the speaker in the mindset of being a guest. The speaker subsequently must ingratiate himself to the "hosts" - the audience.

What happens?

The speaker pulls back. After all, it's difficult to fully be yourself when you're a guest in someone's home. Particularly, if you don't know the hosts well.

Stephanie Scotti, author of the blog, Speaker Notes, offers this excellent piece of advice:

Transform the Room... Close your eyes for a moment and shift your thinking. This is no longer a ballroom, or a boardroom, or a trade show hall…it’s your living room. And the audience, each and every one of them, is a welcomed guest.

Just as you would greet guests arriving at your home, adopt the same attitude in welcoming listeners to your presentation. This simple change of perspective allows you to project confidence and manage the dynamics of the room. Because, after all, you’re the host.

From the Green Room: Instead of thanking the audience for inviting you, welcome them to your presentation.
In an instant, you are no longer a guest, but rather the host - with a wonderful presentation to offer each of your guests who have come to hear you.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Remember the Rule of Three

Today I taught a music class for a group of 2-year olds.

One of the songs they like best is called "Me, You, We."

Each verse contains three lines of one word each:








and finally...




That's it. Really.

And the kids love it! Why? Because it's so easy to remember.

Today I realized that even at the tender age of two, people respond to the Rule of Three.

People remember things much more in threes than they do in twos - or even one. Me, You, We is especially memorable, as the words in each of the verses connect to each other.

From the Green Room: Whether you are speaking for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, remember the Rule of Three.

Break down your speech into three distinct points.

Even better, find a thematic way to connect your three points to each other.

(e.g. Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow; Stop, look, listen; We came, we saw, we conquered)

It's simple, it's clear, and it works!