Professional Speaking

Gay Marriage: Can a Presentation Change Minds?

Even when the subject is controversial, it's not hard to admire a perfect speaker. Professional speakers know how to marry the timing and the humor, so it all comes together into one neat, perfect package. The best motivational speakers make it look easy, so we think, "I could never do that. How could I have any impact?"

But it's important to remember that YOU are the message. When you speak from passion, people will forgive the foibles and faux pas. Case in point: watch this video presentation of Diane Savino who is the New York State Senator from Staten Island. She gives an impassioned speech in the Senate in support of gay marriage.

When she begins, she's playing with her pen. Later on, she tugs on her ear for a while, which is distracting. An executive speech coach would fault her for that. Yet, the passion and clarity of her message overshadows the imperfections in her presentation. While many politicians waffle, the most persuasive presenters take a definitive stand. Whether or not they agree with her position, the audience is drawn in and listens.

When it comes to public speaking, passion trumps perfection. Forget about perfect delivery, and focus on your passion and your message. You'll be less nervous and more persuasive.

What do you think - does she make a convincing case? Why or why not?

TEDx Comes to Times Square

Karol Ward at TEDxTimesSquare Yesterday, I attended TEDxTimesSquare, which is an independently organized TED event in New York City. The theme was Openness: Exploring the Limits and Possibilities of Open Culture. TED stands for Technology, Education, and Design, and is a forum for public speakers to share ideas worth spreading.

It's a wonderful platform for professional speakers to gain exposure and for the audience to experience a wide range of speaking styles and fascinating topics.

One of the best presenters was Karol Ward whose presentation was called, "Claim Your Inner Voice". She was the epitome of professional speaking. From the message, to the timing, to her movement, to her story, to her slides - they all worked together to create one seamless message about the mind-body connection.

Another fabulous presenter was Mark Taylor who spoke about "The Enemy of Openness". He shared that the secret to conflict management is triads. With two people, one is right and the other is wrong. With three people, it's easier to accept feedback. Now I know why my mastermind group of three people works so well.

Amy Goldsmith's talk was titled, "Yours, Mine and Ours? Legal Limits of Openness." She shared some fascinating information about intellectual property. We think of intellectual property as literary or musical. But did you know that you don't own your own blood? Once someone draws your blood, it's considered waste material and a researcher can obtain a patent for use of your DNA or cells.

Event Planner Annette Naif with Diane DiResta at TEDxTimesSquare

It's not enough to have good presenters. For an event to be successful, it has to be well-organized. TEDxTimesSquare ran smoothly due in large part to event planner Annette Naif.

Other people in the program included:

  • Jim Estill - From Zero to $2 Billion Through Openness
  • Tim Piper - Why Goodness is Good for Brands
  • Christopher Bishop - Open Technology for 430,000 Employees
  • Kitty Pilgrim - International Openness
  • Guy Geier - Open Architecture
  • Collin McCloughlin - Chasing Dreams
  • Andy Cohen - Magical Assumptions Behind Openness
  • Greg Harper - The Future Through Open Technologies
  • Aliza Licht - The Power of Being Real
  • Peter Shankman - Nice Finishes First

Don't Monkey Around With Your Presentation

I read an interesting story written by Deborah Grayson Riegel, who was giving a presentation at the Bronx zoo. In addition to her human audience, there were 20 monkeys outside with their faces pressed against the window, watching her presentation. Each time she advanced her PowerPoint slide, the monkeys would bang their fists against the window. Eventually, she had to let go of her PowerPoint presentation, and stopped changing the slides altogether. Most of us are not going to be speaking at the zoo, but we will have our own monkeys to deal with - the usual cast of characters known as a difficult audience - hecklers, people causing distractions, zoning out, and generally interrupting your presentation. It's important to be flexible and work with your audience.

Speaking of monkeys... someone recently threw a monkey wrench into my half day presentation training workshop, which was scheduled from 1:00 - 4:00pm. We were told that four of the participants had to leave by 2:30. The program was designed to build speaking skills so the speakers would be prepared to give their final presentations at the end of the workshop. We had to do a quick redesign on the spot - in 5 minutes. My partner and I huddled and came up with a plan. The goal was to give each participant the opportunity to present, leave on time, and still gain enough learning to succeed in their next presentation. It worked.

In public speaking, as in life, we always need a backup plan. Deborah had no choice - the monkeys forced her to stop using PowerPoint. Your audience may be more subtle, but good public speakers pick up the nuances and can change in a moment to better serve their listeners. Technology will fail. And an audience can quickly tune out. We need to be able to go where the current is taking us. That's the mark of a professional speaker.

5 Mission-Critical Steps for Public Speaking Success

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.

5 Tips for Women Entrepreneurs Learned From the School of Life

I recently read an article by Dylan Kendall entitled, "5 Tips for Women Entrepreneurs I Learned From the School of Life". Dylan's tips are simple and pragmatic. They can also serve as guidelines for anyone who speaks in public. Here are her 5 tips and how they apply to public speaking:

1. Get comfortable asking for money and ask with confidence. Public speaking involves first and foremost both inner and outer confidence. If you're a professional speaker, you need to be comfortable asking for your fee.

2. Learn how to ask for advice. You need to research and seek counsel from others who know your audience. It's also about polling and interacting with the audience.

3. Don't share everything but do share strategically and embellish wisely. It's especially critical to give the listener what they need to know - not everything you know. You can lose an audience or a prospect by giving too much detail.

4. "Help a sista out" -- network with and support other women. People don't realize that networking is a presentation and your ability to present yourself and your message clearly and compellingly is an important factor in attracting clients and advocates.

5. Understand what sacrifices you can make and when you should walk away. Part of your presentation is what you are willing to do for your audience. There are some situations where you should walk away and not accept a speaking engagement. When it's the wrong topic or the wrong audience, you need to know when to say no.

Why Public Speakers Fail

Professional speakers who are satisfied with the status quo will surely find their audience slipping away. Just like the car replaced the horse and buggy, dynamic, interactive presentations are replacing the talking head. Today, public speakers have to play a bigger game in order to give a Knockout Presentation. In a recent article entitled, Why Leaders Fail, the author cites the number one reason leaders fail and it's because they believe past success equals future success. There's a lesson here for public speakers and presenters. The article made me think about some of the public speakers I've heard. And just like in leadership, the rules of public speaking have changed. I've observed public speakers using an old time, one-size-fits-all presentation style. But what worked in the past, won't necessarily fly in today's market place.

Today's audiences are more sophisticated and demanding than ever before. The old, traditional method of the expert keynote speaker with the passive, listening audience, is an old model. Technology and social media have changed the game. Today, speakers engage their audience by using live polling for just-in-time responses, encouraging tweeting content, and interactive activities, even with large audiences.

Speakers have to look at their expertise differently and more creatively. It's not enough to be a standup keynote speaker. Today's savvy keynote speakers distribute their content through many media channels: podcasts, mp3 programs, white papers available on their websites, pre-program questionnaires or surveys, downloadable handouts, and youtube video clips. The focus has changed from "speaker-as-expert" to audience engagement and tapping into the expertise of the audience.

You can still take a horse and buggy ride, but it won't get you very far. If you want your presentation to have impact, you have to shift gears from giving a speech to taking a ride on the interactive highway and giving the audience an experience.

Speak Your Way to Phenomenal Success

I'm promoting this NSA event in February - The Mega Motivational Meeting. Les Brown, the top motivational speaker, is coming to New York. Click the postcard for more information.



The Top Things to Consider When Booking Your Keynote Speaker

Back in September, I wrote about When Celebrity Speakers Fail to Deliver. This post generated interest and was re-posted as an article on the The International Association of Franchisees and Dealers' website. UK-based Business Growth Specialist Andy Gwynn commented that he liked my article and referenced his own list - The Top Things to Consider When Booking Your Keynote Speaker. I think this is an excellent list, so I'm sharing it with you.

How do you know that you have got the right speaker for the job?

1. What experience do they have on the subject that you want them to speak on?

2. Have you seen video testimonials of clients or attendees that have seen and heard them speak?

3. How detailed is their fact find of you when you speak with them?

- Do they ask you about your audience and what message /content/value you want them to deliver in their keynote?

4. Do they send you a comprehensive “speaker booking form” to help them help you get the very best value from booking them?

5. Do they ask about your organization's culture and the overall message or theme of your event?

6. What physical “takeaways” do they offer to give your audience, such as documents, downloads, books, cd’s, DVD’s, etc?

7. How focused on you and your audience are they compared to focusing on their needs, fees, expenses etc?

8. Can you speak with previous clients of theirs?

9. Do they ask you about your event and offer suggestions that might help?

- Like timings, sound and AV specifications, marketing.

10. Do they offer to stay behind after their presentation to interact with your audience or are they just going to “grab their money and run?

11. Do they offer any sort of follow up / contact or support for you or your audience?

12. How confident are you that they will “under promise and over deliver”?

Why the Early Bird Speaker Catches the Worm

When I first started out in my speaking business, I was hired by American Management Association to give public seminars in public speaking and presentation skills. One day, the program director sent around a memo stating that all AMA presenters were expected to arrive early to the class. It was not acceptable to show up at 9:00 a.m. What? Who would do that? I always arrived an hour early.

To be a good public speaker or presenter, you need time to set up the room.

When the curtain rises on a Broadway show, all actors are in place. But they don't show up 5 minutes before curtain call. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes of any performance. In addition to getting into costumes and makeup, actors warm up their voices and review their lines and staging to make sure they get it right onstage. The same is true for public speakers.

As a keynote speaker, facilitator, or trainer, you are giving a performance. What happens before the presentation is as important as the live presentation delivery. Master public speakers know that successful speaking is 90 percent preparation and 10 percent delivery.

So the next time you give a speech or presentation, arrive early. Practice the presentation in the empty room. There's something about getting the feel of the room that can boost your performance. Use the time to do some deep breathing and to visualize a positive outcome. And then get ready to greet every person who enters the room. This will create a positive tone and talking to people before your speech will reduce nervousness. It will also help the audience feel comfortable with you. Next time you're tempted to breeze in at the last minute, don't!

For a free checklist on what to do before, during and after a presentation, Like our facebook page.


Your Message Has Value But Does It Have Impact?

  On Friday, Ford Saeks spoke to the New York City Chapter of National Speakers Association. He presented marketing tips and presentation tips for delivering a knockout elevator speech to an eager audience. He then asked for a volunteer and demonstrated how to create an elevator speech that has impact. The difference was dramatic. Public speakers and networkers get bogged down explaining the details of their services.

He cautioned, "It's not what you do it's what you offer." Ford, a business growth specialist and professional speaker, advised the audience of speakers to "Give away the WHY and sell the HOW TO." He believed that all marketing techniques work if you do it right.

One of the reasons a presentation doesn't have impact is because the writing isn't emotionally authentic. He reminded speakers to sell value. Ford's presentation was full of valuable tips. He held a contrarian view of marketing success. "You don't need money to make money," he countered. "Ideas make money. You need value to make money."

When writing presentation copy, Ford told speakers to list all the problems they solve and then write content related to problems they solve for their clients. The goal in presentations is to speak from the listener's point of reference. Then the message will not only have value but it will have impact.

New York Author Says "Speaking is the New Competitive Advantage


For Immediate Release

Contact: Diane DiResta

Phone: 212.481-8484 x 312 Web: Blog:

September 12, 2012

New York, NY -Diane DiResta  will present " Speak Powerfully Sell More: Speak to Grow Your Business" at the New York Chapter of the American Business Women's Association tonight at 6:00 p.m.

Recognized for her public speaking and media training expertise, Diane DiResta, author of Knockout Presentations and President of DiResta Communications, Inc, was invited to speak at the ABWA.  The event, held on Wednesday, September 12th  at Phillips Nizer  666 5th Avenue, targets business owners and professional business women seeking new strategies to enhance their visibility and image from proven industry experts like DiResta.

The audience will learn how to leverage the power of the spoken word:

  • Why speaking is the new competitive advantage for entrepreneurs and business professionals
  • How to develop message points and target the audience
  • Mistakes speakers make and how to avoid them
  • How to project confidence on the platform

"Businesses can no longer avoid public speaking," warns DiResta. "Clients and prospects want to hear from you. You are the brand."

Professionals are not exempt from speaking skills. It's easy for women to become invisible in organizations. Public speaking levels the playing field. One executive woman was being overlooked when DiResta first began coaching her. Today that executive  has increased her profile by speaking internally and externally, and was recently on the cover of a prestigious industry trade publication. "Speaking is a leadership skill,"  explains DiResta.

DiResta, who is both a professional keynote speaker and executive speech coach, believes anybody can be effective in delivering a message.  An advocate of speakmarketing, she will share with the audience her experience and success leveraging public speaking as a marketing tool. Her own speaking strategies have resulted in paid speaking and consulting assignments in places such as Tanzania and Egypt.


About DiResta Communications, Inc.

Diane DiResta is president of DiResta Communications, Inc., a New York City consultancy serving business leaders who want to communicate with greater impact — whether face-to-face, in front of a crowd or from an electronic platform.  DiResta is the author of Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz, an category best-seller and widely-used text in college business communication courses.





911 for Presentations and Public Speakers

Today marks the eleven year anniversary of 911. I remember it like yesterday. It was the nicest day of the year. There was a noticeable stillness in the air. I headed off to JP Morgan where I was speaking to a group of relationship managers in the private bank. The seminar was on sales presentation skills. We began at 8:00 a.m. A participant arrived late and told me the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane. Thinking this was a fabrication for his lateness I was a bit skeptical. When someone else confirmed his story, I called a break and we all marched out to the lobby in search of a television. For the next few minutes we sat in stunned silence as we watched the towers collapse. I asked the manager if she wanted me to continue the seminar and she said no. We cancelled the seminar and I left to find a hotel since certain areas were on lock down and traveling home was probably not an option.

While this is an extreme case of speaking disasters, public speakers need to be prepared for the worst. The best advice for any public speaker is to have a recovery strategy. You never know when your presentation will be impacted by an unforeseen event.

Take the case of the man who was giving a motivational keynote speech to a large audience and suddenly there was a fire in the hotel. The hotel was evacuated and all the audience members were herded into the parking lot. Did that end the speech? Oh, no. This savvy professional speaker jumped on top of a car and continued to give his keynote speech in the parking lot. He believed the show must go on.

I remember when I attended a National Speakers Association conference. There were 2000 people listening to the keynote speaker on the big stage. All of a sudden, an audience member had an epileptic seizure. The audience was now riveted on the disturbance and she realized she had lost their attention. There is always that moment when you question what is the right protocol. She called out and said "Should I stop?" She paused for a bit and when they removed the man she continued her speech. Again, these are extreme examples but they do happen to public speakers.

It's more likely that when you give a presentation you'll encounter less dramatic mishaps. The most common speaking disaster is when technology fails. The recovery strategy for technology failure is to have a back-up. Put your PowerPoint presentation on a flash drive, send an email copy to the meeting planner, and print a hard copy.

What if it's an embarrassing speaking situation? One woman was giving a speech on a stage behind a podium. The elastic band on her half slip (undergarment) snapped and her slip fell to her ankles. She calmly stepped out of the slip and continued her presentation. This would have been a good moment for some humor.

Which brings us to the best public speaking recovery strategy. Take a line from Rod Stewart's song "Her ad lib lines were well rehearsed." In other words, plan some extender lines. Let's say the lights go off. You could say, "Next time I'll pay my electric bill." But what if they continue to flicker and go off again? If you have a few lines you can extend the humor by adding a new "ad lib." One professional speaker had a technology meltdown. He had five extender lines which he used. He later confessed that he was glad that the problem was fixed after the fifth attempt because he had no more humorous one-liners.

Anticipate what could go wrong in your every day presentations. I've spilled coffee, knocked over a flip chart, and hit the wrong button on the video playback. I even lost my train-of-thought when presenting on a panel. I knew what I wanted to say but couldn't retrieve the word. My brain froze. So I simply asked the audience, "What is the word I'm looking for?" They gave it to me and that was the end of it.  When it comes to public speaking or any kind of presentation, the audience will not fault you for flubbing if you recover with grace.

Back in 2001 when my seminar was cancelled, we did recover with grace. We rescheduled the presentation a month later and the attendees performed well. They recovered emotionally and that was the best recovery strategy.

What were your worst public speaking disasters and how did you recover? What advice do you have for other public speakers and presenters?


Don't Ask Me to Speak for Free!

  A couple of years ago I spoke to an organization of business owners. Their policy was that you had to give two free  three hour presentations before you could have the honor of being paid to speak. It didn't matter if you had 20 years experience, testimonials, and a good track record. The person who recommended me to speak to her group paid for my presentation out of her budget. I was not going to invest three hours of valuable content plus preparation time for free.

After a couple of years passed, I tried to log into their internet site to read some of the articles. It locked me out. So, I called them to verify my login information. They acknowledged that I had the wrong information. But I was not expecting what came next. The person on the phone informed me that because I hadn't given a presentation for them in a couple of years, I would have to start over and give two free presentations in order to gain access to their site. What? Speak for free? After I've already been paid as a speaker? I already proved myself. This was beyond nervy. It was downright offensive.

Can you imagine saying that to a plumber or electrician? They charge you a set fee just to walk in the door. And everybody pays them. Newsflash: Speakers earn their living by speaking. It's not an avocation. It's a business.That's why it's  called professional speaking.

A few years earlier I was the keynote speaker at a women's conference. A man approached me and told me he liked my presentation. He asked me if I gave this talk  for companies. They had some issues and he was interested in having me speak at a monthly meeting. He said he would check with his boss and get back to me. The next day I received his email inquiry.  He asked, "By way of clarification, is there a charge for this?"  Excuse me? I think the question is , "What is your fee for this?" Does his boss expect him to show up for free? Needless to say, my friends and I had a good laugh and I turned them down.

A speaker provides as much value as any other professional. Imagine asking an employee to give up a week's salary because they took time off? It's as if there's a testing period for a speaker. Come and speak for free and if we like you, the next time we'll pay you.

This happened to a friend of mine. She did a pro bono one hour workshop for a professional services firm. When she prospected for more business they told her that they weren't going to spend any more of their training budget this year. Why should they? They just got it for free. Now that they have her valuable tips there's no reason to hire her. This woman was a thirty year veteran who provides business strategies that result in growth.

I took her aside and told her that she was not to speak for free for any firm or business ever again  that had the means to pay and could be a client.

A few years ago I learned of a women's initiative program at a multi-national corporation. Their name is recognizable world-wide. On the one hand, they wanted to develop their women with these diversity programs but on the other hand, they didn't want to pay speakers to come in to train their people. What is the company communicating? (We have a program to develop women but it's just lip service). If a company won't invest financially, they just don't value you or their employees.

However, there may be circumstances when you'll waive your fee.

When should you speak for free or make a complimentary offer?

  1. Skills Development You're just starting out and you want to get experience as a speaker. You need to develop your platform skills. Join toastmasters and speak for free for non-profits.
  2. Back-of-the-Room Sales You want to upsell products or other services and speaking is simply the medium you 'll use to promote. You know you'll make a killing on back-of-the-room sales so speaking is secondary.
  3. Thank You You've been a trusted advisor to a client for years and you want to give a free presentation to their customers as a thank you.
  4. Charity/Community Service You're volunteering for a cause. For the past two years I've done pro bono coaching for a couple of student winners of the Financial Women's Association mentoring programs to help them with their acceptance speech.
  5. Marketing You're in front of a non-profit or trade organization and could be hired by the audience members. When I spoke for free at a national conference I was later hired to work with a company in Egypt for two weeks. That's a marketing pay off.

Never speak for free for your target client or customer. The goal of speaking for free at local associations is to showcase your services to potential clients in the audience. Public speakers speak for free. Professional speakers speak for a fee. If professional speakers don't value what they have to deliver, the market won't either.