Working Local

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When you take your presentation on the road, you probably have a set schedule of what you do prior to show time.  But what about when your speaking gig is local?

Working local provides its own set of benefits but also drawbacks.

When I’m working out of town, my family knows they have to fend for themselves.  When I’m local, I’m still part of my family and my family expects me to be connected with them.

When you’re out of town, you’re focused on travel to the site, walking through the building and facilities where you’ll be delivering, and making last minute adjustments in your hotel room.  If you have Props or Lab exercises, you run through them in your hotel room the night before to make sure they produce the desired results.

When you’re local, what are you doing?  Are you giving proper attention to tomorrow’s presentation, or are you frittering away that time with the family?

Your prep time locally should not be different from your prep time on the road.  Some suggestions:

  1. Explain to your family what you are doing and why it is important. Remind your family of your vocation and why it’s important to them as well.
  2. Set aside a block of time each day that is “Your Time” at home for practice as well as program and business development.
  3. If possible, rehearse during the day when family is gone. Admittedly, this works better with a keynote than a training class.
  4. Use your family as your audience.  They will give you a new perspective on your material and you will have a new perspective of your family members.

Don’t cheat your local audience out of an exceptional presentation: give them the same preparation time you give to those on the road.  Your wallet will thank you.

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You don’t say! I wish you wouldn’t have said that.

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Sometimes we have something to say… but…we can’t say it. Or actually we can but just don’t how to phrase it correctly. In every speaker’s life, there are statements or truths that need to be told. The problem we all run into is that we just don’t know how to say it without having everyone upset. We see the truth and we want to let others know of this truth but the words we want to use just will not work. So what is the solution?  Actually there are several ways to do it.

First, tell a story. We all love to hear stories. Stories are a great way to tell something that is unpleasant for your audience to hear. Every speaker must learn how to tell a story. There are many classes conducted by great story tellers who will help you refine your storytelling ability. We all have life experiences that can illustrate a number of truths. Many excellent speakers have a signature story that can be slightly changed to illustrate different truths for different times. Take time to write down major events that have happened to you in your life and what you learned from them. The more often you do this type of review, the greater chance that you will remember other events that you have long since forgotten. A well told story lets the audience look at an unpleasant truth without feeling that it is being directed at them.

If you feel that a story will not do then you may have to make that blunt statement. It will probably be a great idea if you found ways to soften the statement. It you may have to change the words. Or you may have to soften your voice. Many times it is not what we say that is a problem but how it is said. You can also use quotes that will help soften the statement.

The truth is the truth but many times it how you say it that counts.

Impressions versus the reality of your message!

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One problem all speakers have is being believable. This concept of believability is directly related to the audience’s impression of you as a speaker. Not only as a speaker but what kind of speaker. If the audience has an impression of you being one thing but you are talking about something else, you will have a problem with your message.

All speakers should spend thinking about what sort of impression that they want to make with the audience. If the audience’s impression of you matches you and your message, then being believable will be easy.

You see this concept in the movies all the time. If an actor is primarily known as a comedian and decides that they want to do a dramatic role they will run into opposition with movie executives. Actors are constantly type- cast for certain roles. In order to be success at other roles they have to work on changing everyone’s impression of them as to what they are capable of doing.

When you are speaking to an audience, you need to know what impression you are giving to everyone. Your impression might be related to how you dress or sound. If you dress slovenly, you cannot expect to speak to your audience as an expert on dressing for success. If you are giving an impression of being disorganized, you will not be believed if you are talking about streamlining an organization to best maximize efficiently.

Look to asking an outsider on how you are perceived and then spend the time discussing with that person to see if your impression matches your message.

The experts versus the motivators!

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At the beginning of every speaker’s career, speaking professional or professional speaker, there is a tendency to label your topic as motivational. One problem with labeling yourself as a Motivational Speaker with a motivating topic is that there is no such thing. You can be an expert, a trainer, a lecturer or a speaker but not a motivational speaker. You can give advice. You can present expert facts. You can train. Your topic may seem to motivate but in reality it is not. Topics are just that, topics. Speaking to an audience so that you motivate them to do some course of action or to get an end result is not possible. Your audience will only do what they want and when they want.  They may feel “good” when they leave the room but they will only change if they see it in their best interests to change. You best course of action in your speech is to present the facts. You give your audience the reasons why they should change and give the consequences for not changing.

Another problem with labeling yourself as a motivational speaker is that you can now be lump into the same group as all motivational speakers. Whether you get the speaking assignment may come down to price. If speaker A is cheaper than speaker B and  also gives the same amount of “motivation”, than speaker A will be hired. It is similar to hiring a comedian. If comedian A gets 5 laughs a minute versus comedian B who gets 15 laughs a minute, we know who will get hired.

Avoid labeling yourself as a “motivational” speaker. It is much better to be an expert who is on the cutting edge of whatever industry you represent. True experts are rare while “motivational” speakers come and go.

The joys of being on stage!

The stage! Everyone's nightmare or dream!

The stage! Everyone’s nightmare or dream!

In today’s business world, there are many times a business person needs to give a presentation either to their fellow colleagues or to their customers. At times you will be standing behind a lectern or on a stage in front of your audience.

If you want to know the possible pitfalls of speaking behind a lectern, just consult an earlier posting regarding these problems.

Today we will discuss speaking on a stage. One potential problem is how you handle your notes. If you are standing on a stage,  having notes in your hand can be a distraction to your audience. You will have to practice using your notes to avoid this distraction. There is nothing worse than spending practice time on the content and then having your presentation look amateurish because you handled your notes inadequately. The physical part of using notes maybe only a small aspect of your speech but it can have a major impact. Not using notes is always better. If you have to use notes, spend time reviewing the actual handling and placement of these notes.

Moving on a stage can be used to your advantage. You should always move with a sense of purpose. Moving back and forth  with no purpose makes you look like ping pong ball and will give your audience very sore necks.  We are all nervous going but for some of us that translates into excessive walking around on stage. You must practice learning to match your speech’s major points with your movements on stage. Again, move with a purpose.

Another factor to consider on stage is the sight lines. Are all parts of the stage visible to every audience member? Is the level of lighting for the stage consistently the same no matter where you stand? Or are you in the shadows on the back of the stage but in bright lights on the front of the stage?

We sometimes concentrate on the content of our speeches but fail to take into consideration the environment of where we will speak. Know your speaking environment!

So he’s the expert. Yea, right!

Trust me. I am an expert!

Trust me. I am an expert!

Everyone loves an expert! But who is an expert? Why is that person an expert? What makes them an expert? Is it their life experiences or their educational credentials? This is a problem for all speakers. Whether you are the expert or you are using an expert, this problem is something you will encounter. In an average audience you will find some people totally believing what any expert states. On the other hand, there are some audience members who will believe nothing an expert says or shows. If you are the expert speaking you will have to show your audience why you are an expert. Maybe it is because of your educational credentials or maybe you are an author. As an author you had to do countless hours of research and this makes you the expert. Or maybe because of your life experiences you are an expert. If you are speaking about the problems of combat and you have never been in combat, you are not an expert. If your audience believes you are an expert, they will listen to what you have to say. Of course the more controversial you are the more of an expert you have to be.

If you are using an expert’s opinion or facts in your presentation, you must research your expert’s qualifications and present them to your audience. Just because you say this person is an expert doesn’t mean your audience will believe that he is an expert. A simple fact sheet or a copy of your expert’s resume may be what you have to present to your audience in order to prove your point.

Everyone realizes an opinion is just an opinion. However when you speak about your expertise or someone else’s you have to prove it.

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The Descriptive word or phrase!

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One skill all speakers need to strive for is the ability to take a lifeless, boring story and turn it into something that is living and exciting. We have all sat in presentations and listen to a speaker tell a story and after fifteen seconds of listening to this story most members of the audience wish they were somewhere else. Yet, we all listened to another speaker tell a story and the time just flies by and we wish that story would never end.

What is the major difference between these two stories? It is probably the use of descriptive words and phrases. Or to put it another way, one story we are on the outside looking in and the other story we are mentally in the story living and breathing the events.  Words can give a dullness or blandness to any story or they make a story come alive.

You can say a street is dark or you can say the street is a black swirling fog. You can say that you met just a stranger or you can say that you met a tall, ominous person of the night. You can either say you were afraid or you can say that stood in terror shivering with uncontrollable fear. It is your choice as a speaker to determine the path you want to take your audience down. One path will bore your audience and the other path will have your audience screaming for more.