Don’t wait till the last minute!

One of the problems we all have is that life sometimes gets in the way of our plans.

For speakers that can be troublesome. When you wait to the last minute to practice, it shows. It also maybe be as simple as wanting to show a few photos during your presentation but they do not arrive in time. When you wait to the last minute to practice without the photos, it can be difficult to adjust for the absence of the photos. You may have thought previously that this is a good place for my photos and label your notes accordingly but then the photos do arrive. Since it is the last minute you now have to relabel your notes and you are being rush for time. Being rushed is an excellent recipe for missing something.

Everyone thinks that they have enough time for whatever activity they are trying to accomplish. Just remember, life has a tendency to get in the way. Start early.

 

Advertisements

How to work a stage!

image

Many times whether you are speaking in front of a large audience or in front of a small meeting, knowing how to control a stage will be crucial to controlling your audience. In order to be successful, you need to practice on that stage before you give the actual speech.

One important aspect is to know your sight lines. You will need to walk all parts of your stage to see if every member of your audience can see you. There maybe columns blocking your audience sight lines. You will also need to sit in the different areas of where your audience sits and you must see what your audience sees.

What kind of lights are used to illuminate the staging area. Maybe there are no lights. Are there dark spots or areas that have too much light. What color are the lights? Is the color warm or cold in nature?

If you are using props, do you have an area on stage to store the props?

It is very simple to control your stage but you must first know your stage, the negatives and positives!

 

When the Wheels Come Off !!

image

“No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.”

— Tommy Lasorda

There are two types of speakers: those that have had disastrous gigs and those that will.  Like earthquakes, disastrous gigs come unannounced, wreak havoc, then leave you to pick up the pieces and carry on.  You can’t plan for them (power outage), or take remedial action to avoid them (plane diverted); it could be a shared experience (Fire Drill), or only known by you (they DON’T speak English?!)  It is The Twilight Zone episode that’s about your speaking gig today.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful. Try these four sure-fire remedies:

Practice Improv Immediately and Often to Be Ready: You’re in a dynamic environment fraught with gak.  Be ready for it and be able to respond to it.

Play up the Shared Experience: It affected everybody, so make the best of it: tell jokes about it. Use Improv.

It’s You They Came To See: Even though they might not be able to see or hear you, it’s your presentation they came for.  Show it to them. Be you. Be Memorable.

Live the Moment: It isn’t every day you perform under these circumstances; live it, learn from it, and vow never to live itagain.

You will never forget the day(s) When the Wheels Came Off.  They are painful learning days.  But whatever that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

A ride to the airport never felt so good.

“Hey when is this guy gonna stop talking? Lunch is ready!”

talking too long

 

How many times have you sat in a speech or a day long training session and asked yourself the question; “Is he going to finish on time?” Or you ask yourself, “If the speaker is only on page 2 of the handout, will he make it to page 10?”

Every speaker at the start of their assignment thinks they have plenty of time to say and do everything. They feel they can make their points and still be able to add other facts and figures. It is only when they are past the half-way mark in their time allotment and they look at what they have left to say and the panic begins to set in. Or they are the last speaker of the day and their speech is 45 minutes long but it is 10 minutes to Happy Hour. As they say, we have all been there and done that. Here are some lessons that I have learned to help you keep your sanity and be in good graces with your audience.

First rule is to always remember that your audience would rather have you finish 10 minutes early than to keep them 1 minute late. Your opening and conclusion should be memorized but the body is where you can help adjust your time.  For example, if you are the last speaker before lunch, you may have to cut your speech to finish on time. Assign the main points of your speech on a sliding scale of importance. When you know that you are going to run out of time, start to mentally remove the less important parts of your speech.

Concerning handouts, you either have to be extremely strict with your time or use a little devious trick. If you have 5 point handout, you may want to tell your audience that you are only going to speak on the 3 most important points. If you do finish all 5 points, you give the impression to your audience that you delivered more than you promise. This is always a good thing.

You may want to have a moderator to control the flow of the questions and answers portion of your program. Make them the bad guy with regardless to shutting off the questions.

Remember your audience’s time is more important than yours. You may not be the cause running out of time but you can be the hero to fixing it

Want to make your speech more memorable? Learn to incorporate the art of cadence into your work.

cadence_image

According to Webster’s online dictionary, cadence is defined as “the way a person’s voice changes by gently rising and falling while he or she is speaking.”

As a speaker, if you can incorporate (and maybe even try to master) the use of cadence into your speech delivery, by varying your vocal inflection – up or down – to pronounce or call attention to a word or group of words in a sentence to stress their meaning, you will begin to see how well this technique works to make your speech more memorable.

Can you put a name with a speech?

“Free at last, Free at last, God almighty we are free at last.”

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

See what I mean. You probably got both of those right. You know why, because these orators were masters of incorporating eloquent pitches of cadence into their speeches.

By using the power of cadence, such as in Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963, “I Have a Dream” speech, or in President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration address, one can see how both of these men mastered their ability to use different vocal inflections to set a tone for how they wanted their words to be remembered, after all, these two works are some of the most memorable speeches of all time by American orators.

From time to time, I actually read along with speeches like these. This makes me learn how to slow down more and talk from a normal voice. Take a moment and listen to the top 100 speeches of all time at this link: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/top100speechesall.html

Well, here is one proven way to have the crowd in your hand…Learn to apply the use of cadence into your speech delivery, and you, too, can potentially make your speeches more memorable.

Keep on Speaking!

Ok…you told me I have to practice, but how do I practice?

Practicing3Practicing4

   
Any individual who speaks to audiences as part of their career will tell you that to become a better speaker, practice is the number one key to success. Any Professional athlete will tell you that in order to be a better athlete; you must practice. To improve your speaking technique you must develop the discipline to practice. Ok…but how? What is the best way to practice? How long to do you practice? Where do I practice? My answer is simply…it depends. It depends on your own particular style of practicing. For example, when I practice, I do it in small chunks of time. I have found for me my practice takes the form; 2 steps forward and one step backwards. I practice till I am somewhat comfortable with the speech, then I stop and wait a few days. When I start practicing again, I am not at the same comfort level as when I stopped the first time. But I continue to practice and break through any mental barrier I may have. Practicing in small chunks of time resembles walking up a staircase. As I continue to work on the speech, I climb the steps to a better speech.
As to how long you should practice, well…it depends. I believe you can never practice too many times. The more times you practice, your comfortable level increases. Also the more times you practice, more additional ways you may find to say what you want to say. You may think that as you practice you will have the tendency to memorize the speech. Well, resist the urge to memorize your speech. I may want memorize my opening and closing but the body of my speech I want to have variety of ways to say what I want to say. If you memorize a 45 minute speech, what happens if your meeting planner says that you have only 25 minutes to do your speech? If you are the last speaker before lunch, most audiences will love you if you end 10 minutes early but hate you if you are one minute over.
Another aspect of practice concerns recording devices. Many speakers record their speeches. This method allows you to see their body movements or listen to their words to improve their speech. What you think you present to your audience, can be totally different as to what the audience will hear and see.
Remember, it is your speech but it is the audience who will decide. So practice hard, practice long and finally just practice!

Practice, practice and you guessed it….more practice!!

practice1

One question that many speakers ask me is, “How long do you practice your speech?” My answer, “however long it takes!”

Winston Churchill once remarked that he practiced one hour for every minute of actual speaking time.  In my case I practice in short blocks of time over a space of many days or even weeks. I personally feel that you can never practice too much. The more I practice, the more natural and comfortable my presentation feels to me.

Secondly, this extra practice time allows my mind to think of different words or phrases to use to say the same thing. Even different ideas will come to my mind. How many times have you after you spoken with someone said, “Gee, I wish I would have said this rather than that?”

Practice lays the groundwork for your speech. That is why you can never practice too much!