Words are powerful and when delivered with emotion they can move the masses. But until recently, pep talks were "seat of the pants" types of presentations.
Jim Cathcart, motivational speaker and author of the Acorn Principle, spoke to the NYC chapter of National Speakers Association today. As a former president of the National Speakers Association and a Hall of Fame Speaker, Jim shared his time line and journey of success to the heights of professional speaking. His insights and advice for success applied to speakers and non-speakers alike. Holding up an acorn, he asked the audience "What seed are you?" Jim explained that the stem represents your legacy, the cap holds on to the seed to help it grow (your support system, coaches, mentors) and the seed is the potential that lives within you.
The keys to success according to Jim are:
- Know yourself
- Accept yourself
- Improve yourself
He advised speakers to "nurture your nature." In other words, be true to your style as a public speaker. He contrasted the over-the-top expressive motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar with the reserved, business content speaker, Brian Tracy. Both were wildly successful because they were authentically true to their natural speaking styles.
The psychologist and professional speaker, Tony Allesandra, author of The Platinum Rule, had difficulty starting out as a speaker. A coach diagnosed the problem and told him to stop trying to be Jim Cathcart. Jim is a Southern gentleman and Tony is an "in your face" guy from the streets of Brooklyn. When Tony accepted himself, he found his own voice and his career soared.
Jim encouraged the audience to discover themselves and how they operate. He challenged the group to make a commitment to take the first step and the rest will come. Whether you want to be a professional speaker or raise the bar on your presentation skills, decide what you want and be a fanatic about it. According to Jim, "Success is unreasonable. Ordinary is reasonable." If you study your topic for one hour a day, within five years you'll be an expert. We all have seeds of greatness waiting to be expressed.
So, what seed are you?
In 2014 presentation skills will reign supreme. Leaders and entrepreneurs will need to be more visible across different media platforms. Speaking is the new competitive advantage and the bar has been raised. Here are the trends in presentations that I predict for 2014.
- Broadcasting skills - Whether you're an entrepreneur or employed by a company, expect to have your 15 minutes of fame.Today's presenters need broadcasting skills. Media training will become a vital success skill even for those who do not speak to the press. I'm currently coaching a client to lead quarterly webcasts. Five years ago this senior executive wasn't doing any broadcasting. This client has since been filmed for executive promotional videos. Video presentations will increase in popularity. I use eyejot.com to send quick video emails. Videos can be very effective or very detrimental if you have weak presentation skills.
- Mobile presentations - Mobil technology is exploding and the number of apps is growing. This will require adjustments in the way we communicate. Slide shows and websites must be adjusted for mobile devices.The key word in presentations is portability. On a personal note, I now videotape my coaching clients on the ipad. The quality is as good as a video camera and it's easier to transport.
- Increased Need for Speaker Training - The need for excellent presentation skills will increase.due to the competitive nature of the market. Products and services can quickly become commodities and in order to be persuasive, presenters will need to know how to capture and hold the ear of the listeners.
- Self marketing presentations - Personal branding will become even more important. In a crowded market place where good jobs are at a premium. Job candidates will have to master marketing and selling. That means understanding what makes them unique and how to position themselves, their message, and their value with clarity and impact. Lack of confidence will be the deal breaker. Speakmarketing will be a growing factor for small business success. Presently, I'm coaching small businesses to develop webinars to grow their businesses.
- Storytelling - Telling stories will no longer be the domain for the talented few. Leaders will be challenged to learn the art of storytelling to develop trust, express their vision and to lead their teams. And storytelling skills will be the differentiater in the job interview.Certain companies such as Pepsico, have a culture of storytelling. The best interviewers will invest in public speaking coaching to learn to tell their story instead of presenting their resume.
- Authenticity - Audiences are more sophisticated and less tolerant than ever. They want to know who the speaker is as a person.Do they walk their talk? Audiences will value presenters who are real versus a just-the-facts approach. I was asked to coach somebody who had a well-crafted PowerPoint deck but delivered it like a talking head. Listeners are thinking "Who are you?"
- Increased Audience Interaction - The key word is connection. In a society where there is less time for socializing and more stress, people want to have an experience and participate with the speaker. Watch for increased live polling, tweeting, live streaming,and audience participation. Technology will level the playing field as speakers can now use inexpensive polling software on their mobile devices.There will also be an increase in virtual presentations. I'm coaching more clients remotely due to technology tools.
- Less Fluff More Value - Motivational speakers will always be popular as long as the human soul craves uplifting messages. But today's presenters need more than a string of 'feel good" stories. They must be able to provide value, tips, strategies, action steps, a different way of thinking along with those stories. Audiences are more demanding.
- Shorter Keynote Speeches - The 18 minute TED-like talk will become more commonplace. This is already happening at conferences. Instead of the one to three hour breakout sessions, event planners and audiences are opting for a series of shorter talks.
- Continuity - The old transactional model of giving a one hour presentation and then return to business as usual, will give way to the idea of continuity.The message will continue after the event or meeting with additional contact and add-on resources. Despite the fact that younger audiences are leaving facebook, social media will continue to be an important communication channel for staying connected. However, people will consider the return on their time and become more focused and narrow in their social media communication.
All of these trends can be summarized in one idea: Public speaking is more important than ever. The need for excellent presentation skills is not going away. It will only increase in 2014 and beyond. Just as with technology upgrades,presenters will upgrade their public speaking skills or risk becoming obsolete.
Vernice Armour, the first African American woman combat pilot, wrote an article in Speaker Magazine entitled, "The Gutsy Move". In the article, she relates what she learned in her military career and shared 5 mission-critical steps to realizing your goals. In reading these steps, I realized they had a lot of application to success in public speaking and presentations. Here are Ms. Armour's 5 tips:
1. Establish clarity with your flight plan.
The first thing I ask my coaching clients is, "What is your intention? Why are you doing this?" And from there, we set a clear outcome. This is another way of saying, "Start with the end in mind." Too many speakers start working in PowerPoint. Your intention comes before your structure.
2. Create courage with pre-flight.
The biggest fear is public speaking. The first step in assuaging that fear is to prepare. The formula for successful speaking is 90% preparation and only 10% delivery. Preparation mitigates the unknown zone. The more you know about your topic, your audience, and the venue, the more confident you will feel. Use a presentation checklist to keep you on track.
3. Power up for takeoff.
Just like any pilot fires up the engines, a public speaker needs to get ready to speak. That involves mental conditioning, practicing out loud, timing and recording yourself. A speech coach will help you get ready to be your best. If you can't hire a speech coach, you can practice your speech at a toastmasters meeting, or in front of friends and colleagues.
4. Embrace execution.
Once you've prepared, the big moment comes when you're in the spotlight. Have the confidence that you already know your message and speak from the heart. Forget all about the perfect hand gesture or the ideal entrance. Be authentic and the audience will embrace you and your message. If you forget one of your points, the audience will not know. You can always say it a different way.
Interact with your audience through polling questions, exercises, games and technology. You'll lose your self-consciousness when you are dialoguing, connecting, and sharing the platform.
5. Review, recharge, re-attack.
It ain't over 'til it's over. Joking aside, your presentation doesn't end when you hear the applause. The next step is to collect feedback, review your performance, and re-work or apply the lessons learned to your next speech. Provide a paper feedback form before you finish speaking or ask people to respond online, but they must answer the survey while you're in the room. Most people will not fill it out post-presentation.
When you're a fighter pilot, you do fly into the line of fire. You can breathe a sigh of relief as a public speaker because the line of fire is only in your mind. Follow these five steps to make the most of your speaking mission.
TED talks are going viral and they're raising the bar on public speaking. TED stands for technology, entertainment and design. These videos feature some of the best public speakers who are spreading the most compelling content and ideas. It's tough to be selected as a TED speaker. So on a community level, presenters are forming local events called TEDx. Jeremy Donovan, the speaking sherpa, organized his own local TEDx event and shared his experience and secrets to being a TEDx presenter. Anybody can organize a local event. The caveat is that an organizer cannot be a speaker for the same event.
Donovan, who's been a TEDx organizer and speaker told the audience that speaking at TED is all about the story. Not every TEDx presenter is a top speaker but the one thing they all have in common is an inspiring story. He shared his formula for creating stories. Citing the movie Star Wars, Donovan deconstructed the hero's journey as a typical structure for inspirational stories. The two most important elements that are consistent in the highest rated TED presentations are storytelling and humor. He advised using humor within the first two minutes of your presentation.
While all TED talks are timed for 18 minutes, a TEDx talk can be 3 minutes, 5 minutes, or 18 minutes. Donovan gave one speaker a 5 minute slot because he wanted the audience to hear his story while protecting him from a lack of platform experience.
A big mistake first time motivational speakers make is to extol their own virtues. He warned that the audience must be able to relate and that being humble goes a long way.
How do you get selected for a TEDx talk? As in life, networking is the best way to make contact with an organizer. The interview process may require a video of your presentation as well as a marketing platform. When Donovan was an organizer, he expected presenters to have at least 500 linkedin contacts. As in publishing, the TEDx organizer needs help in promoting the event.
Can anybody be a TEDx speaker? Probably not-unless they have an inspirational idea worth spreading.
Last night I was a guest speaker for ABWA. My presentation was Speak Powerfully Sell More: Speak Your Way to More Business. One woman in the audience asked a question about how to handle a celebrity who is hired to speak and doesn't deliver. This woman went on a rant about how many of these celebrities are not good speakers and yet meeting planners continue to hire them. I explained that the reason for that was event planners want to sell tickets. An event will sell out when the keynote speaker is a celebrity.
This made me reflect on my own experience at conferences and I had to agree. I recall one convention where I signed up for the lunch event for an additional charge. The guest speaker was a well known television personality. And he was late! We had already been served the main course before he cavalierly sauntered on stage in his jeans and pec-enhanced tee shirt. I enjoyed his stories but I couldn't get past his lateness. He never made mention of it. The woman sitting next to me had booked celebrity speakers in a past job and told me that they don't care if they're late. They expect everybody to wait for them.
It seems that some celebrities don't prepare or don't know the audience. One woman media personality gave a presentation about herself and her career path. Who cares? Can you spell BORING? Some celebrity speakers trade on their name and expect to be paid just for showing up.
A number of years ago, I was hired by the National Basketball Association when they launched the NBDL (minor league team). My job was to media train the team presidents and media relations people of these newly formed teams. The media training was well-received. One woman thanked me and said that she had recently been part of the Olympic committee. The committee brought in the "big gun" media trainers who were television anchors. She confided to me that these anchors "Just showed us videos and told us stories. But you showed us how to do it."
Once again, it's all about perceived value. I'm sure I made a fraction of what they paid these anchors. But because of their celebrity status, they were considered excellent media trainers.
So what is the solution? How can meeting planners and speakers bureaus ensure that the celebrity speakers can deliver? They can't. Some guest speakers have a good reputation for consistently delivering a great keynote speech. Hire them. But let's say you want a particular celebrity for your meeting because you'll sell out your event, but you know the speaker doesn't have very good platform skills?
Don't give the celebrity the keynote speech. Instead, feature them as the main event for an interview on stage. Conduct the interview "Charlie Rose" style. Then hire a professional speaker who can wow the crowd or has strong content. The audience will get exposure to the celebrity or guest, the celebrity's ego will be intact as the main act, and you won't lose your reputation as an event planner.
When it comes to meetings and events, public speaking skills matter. The event is only as good as the speakers. The audience will pay to hear a celebrity, but if he doesn't deliver, they may not come back the next time.
If you book celebrity speakers, I'd love to hear how you ensure that they will deliver on the platform. And what do you do when they disappoint the audience? Would you hire a celebrity speaker the next time? Or would you try a less known presenter or entertainer?
National Speakers Association convention is where you'll find the top speakers in the world on the main stage. A number of years ago, I attended a convention. One of the keynote speakers gave an inspiring and tear jerking presentation. He spoke about how he and his wife couldn't have children so they adopted a couple of boys. They were brothers who were not well treated and were put up for adoption. He told the audience about how difficult it was to gain their trust and parent them. He recounted all the troubled times. In the end, the little boys flourished and his wife discovered she was pregnant. The speaker then brought the little boys on stage. To say there wasn't a dry eye in the house is an understatement. The tears were streaming down my face. My friend looked over and said, "Are you all right?" I told him "I can't take it." The entire audience was overwhelmed by emotion. This speaker was able to pierce each person's heart and trigger an emotional reaction. It takes skill to tell a story that has so much emotional impact. This is a good thing, isn't it? Well, maybe. But this speaker did the one thing you should never do from the platform...
On Sunday morning I watched Joel Osteen, the motivational speaker and pastor of Lakewood Church. He too, had an emotional story to tell. It was about a country singer.
At a young age this singer, had strayed from his values and started hanging around with the wrong crowd. He got involved with alcohol and drugs. His name was on billboards everywhere and Joel's mother would notice the singer's name every time they passed the billboard on the road. Although, she had never met him, she would say a prayer for him. This ritual went on for more than a year. Then one day when the country singer was feeling down on his luck, he wandered into the church where Joel's father was the pastor. An usher recognized him and alerted Joel's mother. She immediately got up and embraced him. She told him about all the times she had prayed for him.
After telling this story, Joel pointed to the country singer who was sitting in the front row. As the camera zoomed in on him, you could see the singer wiping away his tears. It was an emotional crescendo. The audience burst into applause. And, at that moment, Joel said, "Aw, he's not that good." The audience broke into laughter.
Joel did something the first speaker forgot to do. The first speaker opened us up, raw with emotion, and left us there. It was like a surgeon opening a wound but forgetting to close it back up. Joel used humor to break the tension. A seasoned speaker can take you on a roller coaster of emotions. You'll experience the exhilaration of the highs and lows. But they will always bring you back to solid ground. And one of the best ways to do this is through humor.
You may be a good storyteller who can open people to their emotions. But do you finish the job by closing them back up? As a speaker, you have the power of the spoken word. Remember you have the emotions of the audience in your hands. Use your power carefully.
Is the professional speaking industry a male-dominated field? Why would that be when so many speakers are women?