Adapt or Die-What Does This Mean for Your Speaking Business?

I recently saw the movie Moneyball, the story about Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland As. He lost his top three players and had no budget with which to compete. He wanted to win badly but it seemed there was no possibility of that happening.They couldn't compete because the team couldn't attract top talent for little money. There was no budget. Period. Billy realized he was asking the wrong question. The question was not "How do we replace the top three players?" The question was "How do we get on base?"Contrary to what his staff believed, the issue was about scoring runs and not about replacing the best players. Billy meets a numbers cruncher and starts to realize that there is another way to approach baseball. Without giving away the entire movie, Billy Beane starts to look for solutions by asking a different question and decides to turn baseball on it's ear. He announces his new strategy-"We're counting cards and we're going to turn the tables on the casino." Amidst intense anger and resistance from his staff, Billy stands tough and says, "Adapt or Die!" What a lesson for the speaking industry. Many speakers who were very successful are now scratching their heads and saying "Who moved my market?" The old strategies aren't working. Yet, like Billy's old cronies, it's easy to keep doing what we know. The highly paid after dinner speaker is a relic. Obsolescence is a reality if we don't quickly adapt to the new market. With fewer meetings and conferences, speakers can still use their talents if they use their skills to solve problems and learn new technologies. It may mean fewer keynotes and more webinars. It may mean adding facilitation and coaching to your repertoire. Or packaging your expertise as internet marketing products and targeting emerging markets. I continue to tell audiences that speaking is the new competitive weapon. The need for outstanding public speaking and presentation skills will only increase as the stakes get higher for winning business. But speakers will need to be more creative and business savvy in the way they approach the market. One thing is certain. The speaking business as we knew has changed. Adapt or Die.

Speech Habits Guaranteed to Kill the Sale

Yesterday I received another cold call. This time it was from a woman with a strong accent. She talked about free video emails and doing webinars online. As she rattled on she caught my attention because she was talking my language.  She wasn't smooth but I was interested in knowing about this service and how it was different. She started to give me the website. She said "Go to www.voe..."  "Voe?" I echoed.  "No, /w/." she stated.  "Is that www.vow?" I clarified.  "No," she countered. "www.wo....." After going back and forth several times, a man's voice cut in and he said in a clear voice, "Excuse me mam, we have training calls. Let me give you the website." We then went through an online demo.  While we were looking at all the features the man would say, "I know you busy."  When demonstrating the next feature he'd say "I'm a show you.." and when he turned the controls over to me he said he made me the "presentator."

Throughout the conversation he called me Diana instead of Diane.  Although the product was worth researching I was not impressed with his presentation. His poor grammar made him sound uneducated and that raised a red flag. When a seller or any professional uses incorrect grammar, I question their legitimacy. Was this really a bona fide  web conferencing system or some  fly-by-night basement operation? He ended by asking if he could call to follow up. I decided not to take him up on his offer and said I would look at the website on my own.  Will I use this service? I don't know yet. But I do know this. I won't buy it from the telemarketers who contacted me. I don't trust them.

It's fine to have an accent as long as you know how to speak clearly. In this case, the woman should have spelled out the url. / w/ as in william, /o/ as in oprah, etc.

There is definitely an ROI (return on investment) for public speaking skills. I show people how to monetize their mouth. When you speak with clarity and confidence, you inspire trust. And that brings in more business. When you're inarticulate or use the wrong grammar, you create skepticism and distrust.  This is true whether you're cold calling, interviewing for a job, pitching a story to the media, or convincing your boss to give you a raise.  Success requires good speaking and communication skills.  To learn about Six Sloppy Speech Habits, click on the link and watch this youtube video.

For grammar tips visit Grammar Girl

Too busy to learn how to give a presentation?

Some speakers don't have time to read the entire Knockout Presentations book. That's why I created Knockout Presentations To Go - an eBook filled with public speaking cheat sheets so you can easily find what you want and save time.

This eBook has over 70 pages of public speaking nuggets - checklists, do's and don'ts, and exercises that you can find quickly.  Just choose the section (e.g., Difficult Audiences) and it will give you immediate public speaking tips.

If you're a speaker on the go, now you can be a better public speaker in less time.

Get it here.

Fear of Public Speaking Series: Plan a Recovery Strategy

Murphy's Law will happen during one of your presentations. Guaranteed. The challenge is what to do about it.  The pros don't get rattled by mishaps. They plan for them. Confident speakers know when accidents happen - they can handle them. That's because they anticipate and plan a recovery strategy. Anyone can deliver a good presentation when things are going smoothly. But when disaster strikes, the great public speakers rise to the occasion and put their best public speaking foot forward.

Watch the video on YouTube

Fear of Public Speaking Series: Focus on the Breath

Public speaking doesn't have to evoke fear. Breath deeply. When we're in a fear state we tend to hold our breath.  Psychologist Roger Wolger once said something to the effect of " Anxiety is an interruption in respiration." To work through fear, breathe deeply. Focus on the breath.

15 Tips to Conquer Fear of Public Speaking

July is Freedom from Fear of Speaking Month. Summer is a good time to take a public speaking class, get a coach and knockout fear of speaking. Here are 15 tips to help you become a confident public speaker.

  1. Get over yourself Fear of Speaking - Nervousness is being self-centered. It's not about you-it's about them. The audience wants you to succeed.
  2. Focus on the breath - Breathe through the diaphragm of belly. Take 5-10 deep cleansing breaths.
  3. Prepare and Rehearse - Practice out loud and time your speech. Videotape yourself. You don't look as nervous as you feel.
  4. Set an anchor - Remember a time when you were at the top of your game. Get the feeling. Press your index finger and thumb together and anchor it. Press your fingers together right before you speak.
  5. Affirm your success - Overwrite negative programming by writing positive statements and say them to yourself. "I'm confident." "I can do this."
  6. Arrive early - Mingle with others and you'll feel like you have friends in the audience.
  7. Visualize your outcome - Create the outcome you want in your mind. Imagine every step of your presentation until the outcome is exactly the way you want it.
  8. Transfer your nervousness - Squeeze a small foam ball in your hand.
  9. Make contact with a friend - Look at a friendly face and smile. You'll feel you are supported.
  10. Plan a recovery strategy - Imagine your worst scenario and plan how you'll handle it in advance. Humor works great.
  11. Take time to pause - Stop for 3 beats of silence at the end of as sentence. You'll be able to catch your breath and think.
  12. Make your fear smaller - Imagine your fear as a fiery ball. In your mind's eye, shrink it and move it far away.
  13. Express your passion - Get excited and involved in your message or story and pretty soon you'll forget yourself.
  14. Meditate - Ten minutes of meditation will calm and focus your mind.
  15. Work the room - Release energy through moving to different parts of the room and using gestures. You'll feel energized.

What are your favorite tips for conquering fear of public speaking?

Can A Good Resume Trump a Weak Presentation?

Recently, I had a conversation with one of my C-level clients. He had referred one of his young associates to work with me on building confidence. This bright, hardworking associate didn't show up powerfully at meetings with clients and projected a weak presentation. Although knowledgeable about the research, the associate was soft spoken and simply reported facts from the PowerPoint data. The goal was to eventually lead the meetings. After the coaching program, there was a change in the presentation. The associate was more confident, owned the room, and spoke with authority adding valuable comments and explanations to the charts. My client was pleased with the results and confided in me that initially, he didn't think the job interview would go very long.

He described the candidate as having a weak handshake and too soft spoken. Within seconds of meeting, he thought to himself, "No way am I making a job offer." But he did the polite thing and began asking questions. The more he probed the better the applicant sounded. There was substance beneath that lackluster presence. The references checked out as he learned that this candidate accomplished 50% more work than anyone else. He had discovered a diamond in the rough. To his credit he made an offer. Realizing this was a good quality person, he knew some coaching would enhance the presentation skills.

This associate was lucky. The manager was astute and patient enough to dig beneath the surface. But this is the exception, not the rule. Most job candidates are dismissed early on because of poor public speaking skills and an inability to present themselves. And many interviewers are not skilled themselves in interviewing skills.

It takes seven seconds or less to make a first impression. You can look good on paper. But if you can't pass the handshake test, you may not get a second chance.

Make a Promise to Be a Better Public Speaker

May 4th is Make a Promise Day which was started by Matthew Cossolotto. Why make a promise? Because a promise is more powerful than a goal. Quick! How many New Year's Resolutions have you already broken? When you promise to be a better public speaker, there is an energy and commitment that drives you to action. My military father taught me to never break a promise. When you gave someone your word, that was sacred. You may keep your promise to others; but what about yourself? I recently made a promise to give up chocolate for one month. It was hard, but I would never have done it if I hadn't made a promise. A promise is putting a stake in the ground. It's drawing a line in the sand. You can become a better public speaker right now and the first step begins with a promise.

So, do it. Once you promise, the question becomes how to do it. Here are some ideas for becoming a better public speaker and sharpening your presentation skills.

  1. Read books and articles.
  2. Listen to podcasts.
  3. Attend toastmasters.
  4. Register for a public speaking class.
  5. Get a coach.
  6. Attend National Speakers Association.  (NSA-NYC event May 21st)
  7. Watch top speakers and model their behaviors.
  8. Volunteer to speak in your community or at work.
  9. Prepare in advance of your presentation.
  10. Practice out loud and time yourself. Watch yourself on videotape.
  11. Simplify your notes. Use bullet points.
  12. Get an accountability buddy to hold you to your promise.

When you boost your presentation skills and become a better public speaker your life will change. I promise.

Speaking Resolutions: Eleven for 2011

Make this your best year. Start by polishing your presentation and communication skills. Resolve to follow these eleven speaking principles to speak with greater impact.

  1. Make a promise to improve your communication skills. A promise is stronger than a goal. When you promise, it's the strongest commitment you can make to yourself.

  2. Follow the 6-by-6 Rule when using PowerPoint. Aim for reader-friendly slides: 6 words or less per line and 6 lines or less per slide.

  3. Give a speech without PowerPoint. We are PowerPointed out! Don't use slides as a crutch. Try connecting with the audience. The key word in visual aid is AID. You are the message.

  4. Get comfortable with silence. Most people fear silence and this causes them to speak too fast and to use lots of 'um's and 'ah's. Practice dramatic pauses.

  5. Listen to the audience listening. There's always a silent communication between the speaker and the audience. Tune in, feel, and hear what the audience is telling you.
  6. Speak from your head and your heart. Speakers either give too much data and stay on the intellectual plane or they just tell entertaining stories without enough substance. Today's audiences want hard data in an entertaining style.

  7. Tell more stories. Stories create word pictures, which are memorable and touch the heart. Even a business presentation is more effective when using stories, analogies, and metaphors.
  8. Don't be afraid to be real. You don't have to be a perfect presenter. Most audiences don't relate to someone who's slick and overly polished. Don't imitate someone else. Be your authentic self - the audience can see through phoniness.
  9. Kick your energy up a notch. Enthusiasm sells and with bigger groups you need greater energy to make an impact. You need to push your energy past your comfort level, especially on video and television, which tend to reduce energy.
  10. Practice the Rule of Three. Most people think in threes. When crafting a presentation, aim for three agenda items, three main points, three benefits.
  11. Get over yourself - it's not about you, it's about the audience. Fear of public speaking is still at the top of our list of phobias. Take the focus off of YOU - when you're nervous, you're self-centered. Focus on the audience.

Good communicators are more successful in all areas of life: relationships, career, and well-being. And speaking is the new competitive weapon.

The King's Speech-If He Can Do It So Can You

I just saw the movie, The King's Speech starring Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth. It's the story about King George and his struggle to overcome severe stuttering and the relationship between him and his speech coach. As a Speech Pathologist who worked with stutterers and as a speaking strategist  who coaches executives, it was a powerful reminder  to me of the gift of speech.  King George was thrust into a leadership role he didn't want and  had to  inspire a nation during World War II. How do you do that without speaking? The answer is -you don't.  Enter the speech coach. It was inspiring to watch King George  overcome  his struggles, resistance to coaching, and outright fear.  He confronted his biggest fear and won!

While only 1% of the population stutters, most people fear public speaking. When first working with clients, I see the same fears, resistance, and avoidance that was portrayed in the movie. And yet, without the gift of speech, lives and careers are negatively  impacted. Today more than ever you must be able to present yourself, your message, and your value.

Speaking is the new competitive weapon. In  a competitive job market, candidates who have the best communication and speaking skills have the advantage. Leaders who have good presentation skills are better positioned for success. Sales people who are good public speakers can better influence. Industry experts with good public speaking skills get invited to convey their message at prestigious conferences, and authors who speak well get invited back for media interviews.

Your presentation is your brand. Your voicemail message and even your ring tone convey your brand. How you deliver your elevator speech determines whether people want to do business with you. How you speak and present yourself can be an indicator of education level and socioeconomic status. A study conducted in the 1970s demonstrated that sales reps in upscale department stores had better diction than those who worked in bargain stores.

Public speaking is a skill everyone must master in order to be successful. It's not going away. Avoidance by delegation is not a long time strategy. If you're the CEO, the shareholders want to hear from you. A CEO or CFO who rambles or sounds hesitant doesn't inspire confidence in the analysts. And this can affect a stock's rating. A manager will not motivate a team by giving a lackluster pep talk devoid of emotion.  Entrepreneurs who can't communicate a clear business strategy and convey confidence will forfeit investor funding. Students who don't  know how to present themselves during an interview, may not gain entry to the college of choice.

You don't have to speak the King's English to be successful but you do need to know how to speak and speak well. I believe gifted speakers are born but effective speakers are made.  It doesn't take a major overhaul for most people to be effective. It's the little things that make the most impact. Everyone can be effective and speak with confidence. Public speaking is a skill.  Skills + Practice=Confidence. Make this the year you learn to speak with confidence.