Learning a new Skill!

A common thought is that it takes 10,000 hours to learn a new skill. Research has also shown that the beginning hours are the most frustrating and difficult which is why learning a new language or a new activity is so hard.

Josh Kaufman in his book, ‘The First 20 hours: How to learn anything…fast’ teaches that rather than focusing on the whole 10,000 hours we should deliberately concentrate on the first 20 hours. It is a rather simple and deliberate process. First, you begin to deconstruct the skill desired. Secondly you must then learn to self-correct.  Lastly, remove barriers to practice, such as procrastinating. Of course you must practice for 20 hours; forty minutes a day for thirty days.

As speakers, trainers or facilitators, we are constantly improving our old skills and learning new ones. Rather than making New Year’s resolutions, which for most people get sidetracked, maybe it is better to use the advice of Josh Kaufman.

Take a skill, whether a new or existing one,  and concentrate on deliberately improving it for 20 hours.

You may be surprised on how much fun you have and look forward to working on the next skill.


The Question and Answer Session

Various types of speakers have the option to have a question and answer session. Keynote speakers generally do not have the time while speakers who are facilitators, trainers or who can speak longer, have a  question and answer session.

For the audience, they  can ask questions to clarify or get more information on what was said. For you as the speaker, you can answer questions and tie up any loose ends that your audience may have.

To start the process, assume your audience has questions. Ask your audience what questions do you have, then wait.  Some speakers do not show patience and if no one asks in the first couple of seconds, they begin to move on to the next portion of their program.  Give at least 10 seconds, which may feel like a minute. Keep the pause, for generally once the first question is asked, people will begin to feel more comfortable and follow suit asking questions.

When someone asks a question, before you answer, repeat the question so that everyone in the room knows what the question is. If you do not know the answer, say so. Never bluff. The audience can always tell.

Always have a time frame for your Q&A and adhere to it. Answer one final question, inform your audience that you will answer more questions at the end of the program. Then proceed to your close. Never have the Q&A as your close

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.


Intonation Gives Meaning



I have heard and probably you have heard many speeches and presentations that were well organized with excellent content that had less than the desired effect on the audience.  More than likely, the key ingredient that was missing was vocal intonation to give the message some life. 

When you are speaking to an audience and every word has the same tonality and emphasis, how in the world is your listener going to know what is of importance.  Instead, they are just trying to stay awake and be courteous. 

It is up to you to give the key concepts in a way that they stand out and are noted.  One way is to, what I call, giving the word, phase or sentence some “Punch.”  If what you are saying is important, make it sound important.  To add additional effect, slow-down or speed-up a bit to give added attention to what you are saying.  If it is of major significance, figure out how to use repetition to help your audience remember the information you are providing them.


The Statue!

speech posture

As in business, speaking has extremes. For example, the opposite of randomly walking around the stage without any purpose, you will find what I call the statue speaker.

This is the speaker that stays in one spot throughout the entire presentation whether it is a 10 minute speech or a two hour presentation. They look as if they are glued to one spot whether they are behind a lectern or standing in the middle of the stage.

The benefit to moving throughout your speech, it forces your audience to use their eyes. As a result, you make your audience watch your actions. Your moving on stage stimulates your audience and allows them to concentrate on you.

Also as you move from one point to another point in your speech, you have the opportunity to stop and pause. This pause you to collect your thoughts and your audience to review what you just said. Being silent is a powerful tool in speaking.

Lastly, your movement on stage lets you release some of your pent-up energy or nervousness. Most speakers have excess energy and by moving you can direct it to different parts of your speech.

Don’t be a statue in speaking, let your movements serve a purpose.

Huh…it’s my fault?


There are 3 possible audience reactions to any speech, whether you speaking to 1000 people or just one person. On one end of the speaking spectrum, your audience craves more of you speaking. The other end of the spectrum, people feel that their time was wasted. Between these two ends of the spectrum is the middle ground where everyone considers your speech just average and ordinary.

The hard fact of life is that you are responsible. If your speech is successful or less than successful, it is your fault. This is a difficult concept for many speakers to deal with.

However, once you have accepted this premise, it makes being a better speaker easier. You begin to search out the tools to make you better. You might decide that recording all your speeches is the best way to learn. Seeking mentors or mastermind groups to evaluate you maybe another tool that is used. However if you enlist a mentor and that person suggests changes that you are not comfortable with or you feel is not the best, remember, ultimately your audience’s reaction is on your shoulders.

Remember, concentrate on being the best, not who to blame.


Always…Always be prepared!


The Boy Scout’s motto is; Be Prepared. As a speaker this should also be your motto.

A month ago, I attended a presentation by a local speaker at a Historical Society’s monthly meeting. The speaker was told they did not having to bring anything because the Historical Society had whatever the speaker needed.

As the speaker began to speak and advance the PowerPoint presentation, the remote control stop working. It was determined that the remote needed new batteries. For the next 20 minutes while the speaker manually advanced the Power Point presentation on his computer by hand, someone was rummaging through several file cabinets looking for new batteries. This was a total distraction to the audience and for the speaker. A simple solution would have been for the speaker to have brought a small case for emergency needs.

You as a speaker must always be prepared. Spare batteries are one item to have to save embarrassment for you. You may also have a spare universal remote control. An extra flash Drive with your presentation on it is also helpful.

Spend time thinking on what you should bring for your ‘emergency bag’. This may save you from extra stress!