Month: November 2012

Take the time to make your speech good


This seems like a no-brainer, but experience says it’s a common problem: people constantly give speeches without enough preparation.

It’s important to be clear that we’re not talking about memorizing the speech. We are talking about getting familiar with it, comfortable with it, even cozy with it. It’s a simple truth: that takes time.

Not just time spent with the outline, either. It requires what I call “soak time.” Continue reading

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Education is doomed, unless….


I posted the following as a comment on LinkedIn. It deals with both communication and higher education, and it affects our whole society–or does it? Am I right?

We [that is, college faculty] have had three basic roles since the time of Aristotle: information transfer, intellectual skills (i.e., critical thinking and context framing), and inspiration.

Many of our funding bodies (such as legislatures) have thought primarily of the first one. In the Internet age, if we believe our primary value lies in standing at the front of the room and passing on information, we are in serious trouble. Our students can find information cheaper and easier elsewhere. Continue reading

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How to get ideas for speeches

If you’ve read much here, you know I think one of the most important aspects of speaking, if not the important aspect, is the unique bit you bring to it. Since it’s so easy to look information up these days, a speech can’t just be a convenient way to share information–there are too many more convenient ways. The unique point of view, the unique experiences, or at the least the curation you perform–those are the factors that serve to make a speech worthwhile to an audience, offered in the context of a unique connection with them. Continue reading

photo by: stevendepolo
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Why Lois Creamer is one of my speaking heroes

Lois Creamer

There are a lot of reasons Lois Creamer is one of my speaking heroes. Here are just a few of them.

  • We haven’t had this conversation, but in my observation, I don’t think Lois thinks of herself as a speaker. She might call herself a speaking professional. Certainly, she is an expert who speaks… and writes… and blogs… and produces CDs and audio products… in other words, she knows something, and will share it in any way she can.
  • If anyone understands the importance of focus, it is Lois. As long as I have known her (which must be over 15 years), she has focused on working with professional speakers who want to book more business, make more money and avoid costly mistakes.
  • She doesn’t confuse simple and easy. She takes things that scare people and tells them a simple way to do what needs doing. But she doesn’t tell you it’s easy. That part depends on what you do with it.
  • She walks her talk. (Focus, sticking with your niche, positioning statements.) So she’s a great model.
  • She doesn’t quit. I won’t go into personal circumstances I happen to know about. Let’s just say she doesn’t let what happens outside the business interfere with the business. (And I suspect she doesn’t let business interfere with what happens outside the business, either.)
  • She has figured out how to manage the balance of business and personal connections. I think she’s a great friend, and in a people business, that can potentially be a problem. If you give away the store to your friends, you will starve, and then you won’t be able to help anyone! She’s done a fantastic job of being a friend, and also knowing when an interaction needs to cross into “on the clock.”

As I said, there are lots of other reasons. These are just a few. If you have a chance to hear Lois, take it. If you have a chance to work with her, take it. Your business will be better as a result.

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Prepare to speak without preparation

Preparing for speaking is a needed skill, but almost as important is the ability to speak off the cuff. Most of the world would probably call this “impromptu speaking,” but the understanding of that term can vary. You can certainly learn to talk without preparation, but it’s not really talking off the top of your head. Continue reading

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Lean into the flinch

Do you have to have difficult conversations sometimes? Perhaps with friends or family, perhaps with coworkers, perhaps with subordinates?

I will be speaking next week to a gathering of executives, managers, and business owners who are members of Executive Women International about difficult communication situations. Whatever else we’ll talk about, a key skill here is the ability and willingness to lean into discomfort rather than avoid it. Continue reading

photo by: robspiegel
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Get past the Mehrabian myth

If you have studied communication much at all, I’ll bet you’ve been exposed to a common set of figures: only 7 percent of the meaning that comes from an interaction comes from the words exchanged. 38 percent comes from the voice, and 55 percent from the body language. You should have a source for information like that, of course, and there has always been a good one: Dr. Albert Mehrabian.

I even cited those figures in a textbook I co-authored, since the figures appeared in the textbook I used as a student way back when Aristotle was in knee pants. They’re great figures that help speakers make a point about delivery.

Except they’re wrong.

Continue reading

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