Browse Category: Pitching for business

Public Speaking Tips: Take Your Job Seriously, Not Yourself!

Public Speaking Tips: Take your job seriously, not yourself!

Public speaking tips are usually about getting things right. But what happens when it all goes horribly wrong? Lets face it – we all screw up from time to time. Sometimes we win by winning, sometimes by screwing up less than the competition.

When I was a tennis coach, Ian Barclay (who was Pat Cash’s coach) was coaching a group of us in Johannesburg. One of his standard pieces of advice was “Winning is easy – all you have to do is get the ball over the net one (just one) time more than the other guy.”

So what should you do when it does all go wrong?

Admit it, keep the mood of the audience with you, smile and enjoy the moment. Stay confident and calm and in control. You may even turn your imperfection, your humanity into a plus. Do not take yourself seriously!!! (Of course having a sense of humour helps!).

It is the people who take themselves seriously, or worse too seriously, who quickly become the butt of jokes. People love laughing at the pompous and the self important. Be likeable and be human. When the technology fails, or you forget what you are saying or your place in your speech – you will need all the friends you can get.

The 8 Point Cheats Check List to Improving or Crafting Your Speech in 5 minutes.

The 8 Point Cheats Check List to Improving or Crafting Your Speech in 5 minutes.

Giving a speech is important – otherwise why do it? So of course you should take the time to write it, book in more time to practice it and give your speech time to bake in your head. Then reality intervenes and messes it all up! So for all those speechwriters and speechmakers who are put on the spot at short notice and the others (very stern look in your direction because I have obviously never been in your shoes!) too lazy to prepare.

  1. Do you want to inform or persuade? What must you achieve? What defines success?
  2. If you want to persuade, compare the current with your vision of the future. Use “we”.
  3. Use fresh examples and metaphors. Avoid those with lost meaning. Speak as you would to a friend.
  4. Use short sentences and words. Max 15 words per sentence and 2 syllables per word.
  5. Narrow your message to 3 key themes. They won’t remember more anyway.
  6. Identify and repeat the words that summarise your message.
  7. Never speak for more than 20 minutes. 5 is better. 3 even better.
  8. Speak slowly and confidently. Breathe slowly and deeply from your belt buckle. Stand up straight and smile.

Presentation coaching tip – How to present with purpose and stop boring your audience

Presentation coaching – How to stop boring your audience by presenting with purpose and passion.

Unless you can start your presentation with power, purpose and passion why are you presenting in the first place?

How you start your presentation is more important than anything else. If you mess up the beginning of the presentation up, the audience will not hear the rest of the presentation. They will just switch off. Some audiences – like potential clients – may even put up their hands like Simon Cowell and stop your presentation before it bores them any further! And who would blame them?

To be fair to those who would do that to you, if you start with a boring opening, the chances are (very) high that the rest of the presentation will be boring too. And life is too short – if your opening statement is boring, why should the audience waste time listening to the rest of your presentation?

So quit the jokes, quit the “it’s wonderful to be here” platitudes and PRESENT!

Presentation tips checklist. Things to do before you open your mouth.

  1. Have you identified the purpose of your presentation. Do you want to persuade or inform? What is the action or state that you want to trigger or create?
  2. Can you summarise your presentation in a word, a headline, or a sentence? Your goal must be that your audience can summarise and sell on your presentation in a sentence or two – are you helping them to do that?
  3. Have you researched your audience and used that knowledge? You should be speaking about them – not you!
  4. Do you have any passion for what you are presenting? If not, get off the stage and go to the beach.
  5. Remember you need to get the audience’s attention first. You get that attention by pausing rather than by speaking. Wait until you have eye contact and the attention of the audience before you start to speak.
  6. If your opening statement is your headline, does it make your audience want to hear more? Does it arouse their curiosity? If not, why not?
  7. Introduce yourself AFTER your presentation headline – not before. Your presentation is supposed to be talking about the audience, not about you.
  8. Your presentation’s headline or opening statement should summarise your purpose. But it should also be memorable? Alliteration helps make things memorable. Do you remember  the 7 P’s – “Proper prior preparation prevents p*** poor performance”?  Or even “Proper prior preparation plus pauses and passion prevent powerless purposeless presentations.” (OK – sorry about that –  but you get my point?)
  9. Have you started with a question? Have you used a surprising factoid or statistic? Have you used an analogy or a case study?





DIY Speechwriting – Being your own speech writer

DIY Speechwriting – Being your own speech writer

OK so you have to give a speech. This is actually a great opportunity although you may be normal and feel terrified. Whether you are giving a Best Man’s speech, a speech at work or in a social setting at your club or at a family event, your speech will be either good/fantastic, awful or just plain dull. Most speeches people give are dull and awful and forgettable. And too long.

So when I say giving a speech is a great opportunity – it is. Giving a speech is a great opportunity to be fantastic and memorable and spoken about – in a good way – or it is a great opportunity to crash and burn and be memorable and be spoken about. In a not so good way.

So just imagine, you don’t have the time or you don’t want to spend the money on a professional speech writer. Let us also imagine that you have no speechwriting experience – why should you – you probably have a real job!

Here is a short checklist to help you write your own speech which I hope will be helpful.

  1. What are you you doing speaking in the first place? What do you want to transport from your head via your words to their head through their ears?
  2. Who is your audience? What are they expecting? What are they hoping for?
  3. Summarise your speech in a sentence in your head. What is your big idea – the thing you want them to remember tomorrow?  What are two supplementary ideas? They won’t remember more than three anyway so focus on those three.
  4. Get their attention before you give them the meat of the speech.  If you don’t get their attention at the beginning they are not going to suddenly “get into it”.
  5. Speak like a human – use short sentences. And short words.
  6. Be interesting – tell real and personal stories.
  7. Be careful of jokes. Seriously.
  8. End with a “takeaway”.
  9. Be brief – say what you have to say and then shut up and go. Most people speak at 200 words a minute. That is 4000 words for 20 minutes. Seriously – do you have that much to say? 10 minutes is more than enough.
  10. Practice, practice, practice delivering your speech. No one is a born public speaker. Do some work.

How to give a great speech. The most important speechwriting tip ever.

This is the single most important speechwriting tip ever.

There are many tips and tricks to delivering a good speech. But this is the most important secret to writing and delivering good or even great speeches and it is the one thing that most people never do.

If you have to give a speech or a presentation, I bet you that the date is in your diary. That’s a good start. But there are two other dates that should also be in your diary.

The first is an hour to write your speech. Sketch it first then write it out in full. You won’t be able to do more than that in an hour but it is a great start.  An hour is not very long to write a speech but if you spend at least one full hour writing before you deliver the speech you will catapult yourself ahead of most of the competition who haven’t taken the time. Obama’s speechwriters (note – plural) take month’s to write a State of the Union speech.

The second date for your diary is an hour practising your delivery. David Cameron spent days practising the delivery of his conference speech that turned him from young pretender into Conservative Party Leader and then Prime Minister. Practice makes better, it identifies wobbles and weird and uncomfortable to pronounce words and it helps you calm your nerves and speak with notes.

Secrets of (video) Storytelling – a strong script and a one-off cast make a compelling combination

Secrets of (video) Storytelling – a strong script and a one-off cast make a compelling combination

I collect great examples of storytelling, both as an inspiration and as a spur to tickle my complacency button. Hat tip to Jag, Paul and Harry, my friends at the UK’s premier digital agency MessageSpace for sending me this grade A example of storytelling.

The video has a unique cast (N.B. I am fussy as hell about misuse of the word unique, but  believe me, this cast does qualify as unique) and a funny and compelling story line. So no surprise it has been viewing over 615 000 times.

Humour plays a big role in the success of this video – plus the fact that the protagonists are happy to be involved and to not take themselves too seriously. All of them have significant roles in their day-jobs – the key is taking your job seriously – but not yourself.

Great storytelling. Like you, I get bored by YouTube videos very easily and I often skip to the next one. I very seldom watch any videos twice. I did with this one – I bet you will too!

2.05 minutes long and its job is done.

A big round of applause, salutes and similar for the actors for taking part! Good for you!

Powerful story telling is not measured by the number of words you say, but by the points you make.

Powerful story telling is not measured by the number of words you say, but by the points you make.

Story telling is powerful. It is why movies move us and adverts move us to buy stuff. Most people waffle on for 5 minutes or more when they make a speech – and say nothing during that time.

I always push my clients to make points, not noise. To say more with less. We all like filling up our conversations with words and fillers and meaningless phrases. When we tell stories we often clutter them up with excess and unnecessary THINGS that perform no function and that often distract from the story or message and often confuse the audience. If the words are not adding to your meaning – cut them out.

This video tells a story incredibly well in less than two minutes. If you can move people with a two minute speech then you are in a very small minority.

Winston Churchill famously said:

If you want me to speak for half an hour, give me a day’s notice; if you want me to speak for five minutes – give me a week.”

He was right – watch this and see if you could. Make no assumptions…watch to the end.

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