November 01, 2011
In it, he talks about what it takes to move an audience to action with your talk. The key, he points out, is to write a speech that follows the plot line of one of the archetypal stories we are all familiar with. This way, your audience is 'with you' from the beginning and your talk respects how they make decisions to change.
Story telling has been the key to helping people transport themselves from Point A to Point B, especially with change is hard. When we recognize a story by it's structure, the trust of it rings out and we likely have an emotional response to it as well as strong reference markers in our conciousness. Here are the six basic stories (I've adapted Nick's list over my speaking career to corporate and association meetings):
1 - Love Story. This is great for talks about customer service and member retention.
2 - Stranger In A Strange Land (or Fish Out Of Water). Great for change management, buzz trends like social media.
3 - Revenge. Good selection for internal speeches about competition or ethics.
4 - Hero's Journey (Quest). My personal fave. It recognizes the audience as heroes, faced with a struggle. The speaker becomes a helpful guide in this role and exudes respect for the audience. Read Nancy Duarte's Resonate for more on this one. Here's an outline of a speech I'm giving tomorrow to a room full of health care heroes in Nashville (Planetree Keynote).
5 - Coming Of Age. Good for leadership, personal develop or company innovation talks. At Yahoo!, this was a common story our executives told about how the company was created, grew up and matured into a services organization.
6 - The Burning Platform. A popular CEO story, about how the company is in dire straights and if they don't make quick changes, may perish.
The problem for many speakers though is twofold:
1 - They think that their anecdotes are stories. When you tell a case study or share a personal experience, that's not an archetypal story - it's a single occurance of a situation/resolution. There's usually no full plot (Setting, Antagonist, Call to Adventure, Call to Action, Resolution, Better world). Many speeches are a hodgepodge of anecdotes, all hinting at one of the 6 archetypal stories - but not focusing on it and connecting it to the psyche of the audience.
2 - They can't commit to a single story type, so like Quinten Taratino, they create a hybird of stories. They mix a little Love Story with Stranger In A Strange Land or Burning Platform with Coming Of Age. The result? Much like Pulp Fiction, your talk is entertaining and maybe thought provoking - but it doesn't elicit buy-in to your calls to action.
So, the next time you write a presentation, ask yourself: What story should I tell to move the audience to action and make a difference with this opportunity. As Nick Morgan wrote in his first book, "the only reason to give a speech is to change the world."
July 18, 2011
Common question I get: "What speakers do you recommend?"
My answer is, "It depends on the objectives of your event." As wishy-washy as it sounds, the reality is that a 'great speaker' may still be a miss for your event. It's not just about skills, hi-content or even fame - the speaker must deliver game changing ROI for your organization. More than ever, meetings must justify their existence - just like advertising, salaries, etc.
To paraphrase Nick Morgan, "The only reason to have a meeting is to change the world." In other words, meetings are a great platform to shift thinking, moving the attendees from Point A to Point B. In the case of Interface Inc., a single sales meeting in 1997 produced a paradigm shift: "Stop stealing from our grandchildren by creating sustainable business practices." How did they do it? The speaker's were chosen for their POV, social fit and willingness to roll up their sleeves and apply their expertise and brand to the situation.
In her remarkable book, Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences, Nancy Duarte explains that the greatest speeches move the audience from Point A (status quo, a broken place) to Point B (vision, a better/best place). This is why I believe that my job as a professional speaker is to be the outsider hired to validate and activate the insider's agenda or point of view. If you hire a speaker to generate buzz or get butts-in-seats, you are wasting your money - and risking that your budgets will get slashed during any downturn.
1. Create a post-meeting Vision For Success. What is the current thinking/doing pattern that your leadership team wants to tweak or flip? That's Point A, and there is NO organization that couldn't use a little thought-tweak. For example, at a recent event I was hired for, we determined that the leaders of the company thought that technology was the center of their business. The new CEO wanted to change this, installing a new perspective: People are the center of the business. His new vision was the secret to the company's turnaround, and he wanted to leverage the offsite leadership meeting to get the ball rolling. My job, then, was to leverage my credibility (author, former Yahoo exec) and content to move my audience to a more people-centric way of leading ... Point B.
2. Screen speakers for Point B Capability. Why are they qualified to tell your audience to change? How do their talking points line up with and validate your leader's own? Schedule a phone call to interview the speaker candidates, trust me, they are willing to do it to win some business. Divulge the leader's agenda for the meeting, measure his/her reaction - push them to give facts, figures and examples to validate the vision.
3. Review the finalists for meeting-fit. Does he/she have the appropriate style, level of energy and personality? Will his/her credentials be sufficient to get the audience to grant him/her 'provincial authority'? Who's willing to work the hardest for your event to succeed?
By taking this approach, you'll get more out of your meeting, and WOW all the stakeholders at your company in attendance. You'll demonstrate tremendous business acumen in your speaker selection process, and really hedge against having a speaker that doesn't connect with your group - and causes your leaders to ask you, "why did you pick him???!!!!"
If you are pushing Positive Thinking, People Centric Business and a Relationship Oriented Approach - then I'm probably the best fit for your next event. More Information.
June 23, 2011
Truth is, I do get nervous, but not about the speaking part. I am nervous that the crowd won't show up, the talk won't connect with the group's emotional needs and some part of the logistics may go haywire. I'm very confident in my speaking skills, but must face the fact that things can still go wrong.
I'm sure you have this feeling too, regardless of your profession. You sweat before big meetings, presentations, performances or group projects. You may even feel bad, like being a little nervous means you lack confidence.
It's actually important that you have a case of butterfly's before big moments, it means you recognize that the stakes are high and in reality, nothing is a lock. This helps you balance your confidence, so don't fight it -- overcome it so you can be in flow when the time comes. Here's the best way to beat the nerves:
1 - Prepare, prepare, prepare. The #1 way to immunize yourself against nervousness is to prepare fully. In Today We Are Rich, I prescribe that you acquire some specialized knowledge to use during your performance. Do some sleuthing online or via your network, and find out some surprising and interesting facts or news. Watch video or read experts to enhance your skill set for the task.
2 - Rehearse "as if". One day prior to any big moment, fully rehearse what you'll do (not in your head!). If you can, create a similar environment (same room, mock crowd, distractions, etc.). Rehearse jumping over these hurdles. If you are doing ANY customized performance, you need to try it out on an audience, or at the very least, in front of the mirror. When it's go-time, you'll know internally that you are ready for anything.
3 - Recollect a previous success experience. What do you fill your mind with right before your big moments? Scenarios of failure, worry, fear, self-doubt? I suggest that right before you 'deliver' you close your eyes and recollect a time in your career when you faced a similar challenge and rocked it. Recollect your preparation, the nerves you felt right before you performed, the turning point where you saw victory at hand - and some visual trophy from the experience. It could be a logo from letterhead, a check, a complimentary email, etc. Remind yourself you are just as ready and just as good as that person was.
Like all elements of confidence, you can't just fake-it-till-you-make it when it comes to pre-performance nerves. You have to DO specific things to either prevent it, or power through it. You can't just hope that nerves will vanish when you get your legs underneath you - if they see you sweat, you'll quickly lose authority. Besides, it's no fun to be skeered when it's a big opportunity.
This comes from Today We Are Rich, principle 5: Prepare Your Self
June 10, 2011
It was Skillsoft's Perspectives 2011 event for their customers in Orlando. My talk was on Leadership, Confidence and Moving Forward, and directed to the HR community via a webcast. As we prepared for the event, one of the producers asked me if I wanted to "skype in" a guest expert.
"Like Oprah?" I asked. "Sure, it's easy to do. The trick is getting the expert, not the technology," he replied. Aha! So, I thought about various experts/authors that I knew, who might be able to add value to one of my points.
My first thought was a friend, Jeremie Kubicek, author of the newly published book, Leadership Is Dead. He shares my 'abundance mentality' point of view and I knew it would be a win/win/win scenario. Unlike the old days, when you had to use satellite, Skype is easy and free to bring on stage. You need a dedicated laptop running Skype that outputs (video + audio) to a input selection mixer, and make sure both internet connections are robust. A quick Skype-check happened day of the event, and then, during my talk, Jeremie was on Skype, listening to my talk via the laptop's mic and a monitor closeby.
As I introduced him and told the crowd about him, the producer flips the switch from the power point to him, and just like that, I've Skyped in another speaker! He made some good points and the crowd loved the bonus expert.
Try this for your next event, and leverage your network to spice up your next talk. At almost all levels, it's doable, and you know people out there that would love the exposure or be willing to help.
June 07, 2011
I say, 'came down,' because it's like a flu for your spirit. It hits you, you feel it, your energy flows to it and life isn't fun. I woke up tired, violated a TWAR rule (don't go online first thing in the morning) and through a link, read something that set me off. I worked, holed up in my hotel room, until lunch, then groused around until my 'gig' that afternoon. Took a deep breath, thinking I could shake it all off and rock-the-mic, and took the stage.
On a scale of one to ten, at best, I gave a 7 that day. And that's NOT acceptable. Sure, it was a promo gig for TWAR (one of three dozen), but still, I should strive for a 9 every single time! The reality is, when your mood state is sour or low, you physically cannot deliver your best. You have voices in your head, limiting your concentration. Your appearance and tone betray your mood, taking away your ability to resonate.
Sure it happens to all of us, and often, we just write off the experience as "woke up on the wrong side of the bed." But since then, I've figured out my funk-busting strategy for next time. Here are the key pieces of advice:
1 - Feed Your Mind A Good Breakfast (every single time!) - Why is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Because it establishes your metabolism and gives you fuel. This is true for your mind/emotions too. Be very purposeful that you'll be grateful, read good stuff for confidence and talk to someone that's equally positive. Then, face your day with an ounce of prevention from funk.
2 - Love Your Coming Day - Think about what's on your calendar for the day and be grateful for the opportunities it brings you. Too often, we think 'I have to go do this-or-that' and the mindset is all wrong. Later, if you blow it, you'll realize it was an opportunity all along. Also, love the people you will spend time with or serve in the coming day. Re-connect with your purpose (which should be service related) and let that fire you up.
3 - Be Playful With Others - If you suspect that you aren't in the best of moods, fake-it-till-you-make it works. Be a little irreverent, playful and joke around. Horseplay is contagious, and so long as you don't let your mood convert playful into hurtful humor, you'll be OK. I've done this before, and it bleeds into your performance, causing you to smile and be more gracious in the moment.
4 - Use A Mood Crutch - For some, it might be a playlist of makes-you-happy music. Listen to four of five tunes on your iPod before daily performances/tasks for a boost. For others, reach out to your laugh line. Someone who is always positive for you. Confess you fear you are in a bad mood and ask him/her to tell you something funny or exciting. Pick up a Good Book that inspires you and invest ten minutes reading from it. Those authors are there for you. Don't go down alone!
5 - Think About Something You Are Looking Forward To - Visualize your coming vacation, party or concert you are attending. Imagine all the sights, sounds and experiences you'll have. Connect the coming day's work with these opportunities in your life, because you can't be hateful when you are grateful.
If you have another funk buster or good mood guarantee, contribute it in the comments.
March 23, 2011
Authors, speakers, bloggers: Don't get caught up in the Triple Threat Conundrum.
If you can speak, soon, you are asked to write a book. If you write a business or advice book and it sells, you'll be asked to speak. If you do either, you'll be expected to blog well, terrifically Tweet and master Facebook and/or LinkedIn. Whew.
Comedian Mitch Hedberg once lamented that agents would approach him with: "You are really good at telling jokes, can you act? He said, "That's like saying to a great chef - wow, you can cook, but can you farm.?" His point, just do the one thing well and don't sweat the product or career extensions.
I've met several authors that aren't really very good a speaking, but they do it anyway (poor audiences). I've met several great speakers that write awful books (poor readers). And many of the author/speakers I know slave away over social media, wondering why their blog isn't as big as Seth Godin's or their Twitter following isn't swelling like Gary Vaynerchuk's. To them I say, relax: Just do your thing really well and you'll find a way to make a living - and a difference.
We cannot fall prey to the Triple Threat challenge (sing, act and produce) that entertainers deal with. Blogging has it's own special skill set - just ask Chris Brogan. If you are a great writer, find a way to make your money selling books and don't think that you have to hit the lecture circuit. If you get exponentially better at one thing, like Gladwell's done with writing or Tony Robbins has done with speaking - you'll be just fine.
March 04, 2011
A friend recently lamented to me that every time she presented, new slides needed to be built.
Of course, such is the life of presenter world! We should always customize talks, and when necessary, build visual support to illustrate our messages. As I've said in previous posts, I'm not a fan of using power point as your speaker-notes (eg. bullet points with builds, quotes, etc.) - but there is a good place for great slides with images or key takeaways...
Here's the problem: When you put together a deck, you likely spend too much time surfing through all decks to find 'that slide' that you are thinking about. Every time I open a PPT deck, my computer places it at the top of the "Recently Modified" or "Last Opened" heap, so I ended up having to sift through dozens to find 'that slide.'
Recently, I found a simple solution: Maintain a master deck, with all the slides I build. After I create a new presentation, I copy all newly created slides into the master deck, sometimes using simple slides with titles as placeholders (eg., Customer Experience set of slides). Now, when I'm working on a talk, I start with the master deck, which contains everything! Sure, it's a mega file at this point (about 100 megabytes), but it's not like I'm going to email it to anybody!
For a great book on slides, read: Slideology by Nancy Duarte
January 04, 2011
I introduced myself as a fellow speaker and we shared a glass of wine. During the course of the conversation, he shared his favorite piece of public speaking advice: "Be brief, be seated."
This quote, originally from Franklin D. Roosevelt, underscores the secret effective meetings of all types: Practice radical brevity. This concept bears true today, more than ever. Time is at a premium. One of the biggest roadblocks to meetings these days it the lack of time to hold them! Still, we schedule one hour keynotes, ninety minute breakouts and four hour dinners! In the brevity economy, this does not add up.
The solution is to shave down the allotted time for meetings and speeches. The annual TED talks, launched by Richard Saul Wurman and Harry Marks in 1990, sported a novel format of an 18 minute keynote. It was enforced with an active moderator and a public countdown timer. The TED talks rank with some of the best of our time. The format works because it forces the speaker to tell a single story and focus on takeaway advice instead of padded premises and never ending stories.
In Brief - The takeaways:
1. When you plan your next meeting, whack all the presentations down to 30 minutes, including the breakouts -- especially the breakouts! This will allow you to compress a three day meeting into a two day meeting (saving some serious cash along the way.)
2. Next time you are asked to speak, offer to do a compressed talk in 30 minutes sans power points (unless you have some compelling images to show.)
3. Take this to your bizlife, shortening internal meetings to 30 minutes (small group) or 45 minutes (large group). Bring a stopwatch to the meeting and have the most senior person in the room serve as timekeeper and enforcer. Develop a reputation as a minute miser and you'll get standing room only crowds.
One of my favorite Mark Twain stories involves the first time he attended a lecture by contemporary philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. Twain attended at the urging of his wife, Olivia Langdon. Fifteen minutes into his sermon, Twain turned to Olivia and remarked, "he's great!" Thirty minutes deeper into Emerson's screed, Twain shrugged his shoulders and muttered, "He's alright, I guess." One hour later, as Emerson mercifully concluded his remarks, Twain took five dollars out of the collection plate!
November 23, 2010
Building on Chris Brogran's recent post related to this subject, I want to offer an alternative to the "death by power point notes" approach that most speakers take in this situation. Sure, it's hard for you to remember all the details of your talk, especially if you are integrating research you've done for this talk. There are new terms, statistics that will be fact checked and unique points you want to make. You may not be comfortable shuffling notes around in your hands, and it's true, you look less professional when you do.
While you are adding value by giving a one-of-a-kind talk, asking the audience to read and listen to you makes the presentation long and according to Nick Morgan, straining on the audience. When you use 'overhead-notes' you are making your memorization problem your audience's as well. I'm talking about those text-heavy slides with bullet points and builds. They require many audience to have what I call the eye-exam-keynote-experience.
OK - you actually know that words on screen is a crutch and not a visual 'aid' for the audience. How can you possibly remember your points without using power point slides as your prompts?
1 - Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse. Give your custom talk at least two times (all the way through) prior to giving it for your audience. Give it one time the day of your talk, even if that means you have to get up at 5:30! If you really want to commit this to memory, give your last rehearsal....to yourself in the mirror.
2 - Create an outline on 11 x 17 paper, much like a set sheet that a band uses. Use bold magic marker, and write down cues (see the picture above, from my recent talk for Rich's Products). The audience won't notice you are occasionally looking down at them, all they know is that you are giving them a talk that's written for them.
3 - Make every power point slide beg for it's life. In my situation, I only use slides that illustrate a point graphically. The acid test is this: Can I make the point without showing the power point. NOTE: If a picture saves a thousand words, that's also a good use of power point. Karl Meisenbach (HDNET) and Seth Godin do a great job in this area.
4 - Carry around a one page outline of your talk (mine from today is here) and read it from top to bottom for the last hour before you go on. Test yourself, reciting the bullet points absent your notes. Include any key words that are new to you.
The audience, like a customer, responds to a good experience. When they get to listen, and only view essential images, you are maximizing the experience. But to quote Pine and Gilmore, customization is the ultimate experience!
November 12, 2010
This is the central message of my keynote speech for a corporate event next week. The company has a lot of bright people, from HQ out to the edges, and it's more important than ever for everyone to feel empowered. They need to believe they can make a difference via individual contribution and especially, innovation.
During my keynote, I'll explain that one person (or a small group) can move the company forward either by process innovation (save money, increase quality) or value creation (find new ways to make the customer happy, beyond price cutting). In other words, come up with new ways to increase the health of the business.
I think the leaders are smart to bring me to in talk about this because it's a very important topic these days. The economic environment has beaten us down, putting us in survival mode and leading us to believe that we are only a small part of the puzzle. It's very natural to feel that way, especially if you work at a mid-large company in the field or a far flung office.
But if you look at the history books of companies that were turned around or propelled forward, they are filled with stories of non-executives that led an innovative revolution at work. One engineer suggested that Google's mission statement be "Don't Be Evil." One store manager in Mississippi inspired a CEO to push-the-button on the largest corporate sustainability program in history. The power of one is irrefutable. The problem remains, though: "How does one person change the world at work?"
This is something I've been researching, giving keynote speeches on and consulting with companies about. It's really a matter of personality, passion and process. During my talk for this company, I will focus on the process side of it -- How do we innovate the business?
1 - Keep your eyes open for solutions. Your ears (and your inbox) will be full of details RE the problem. Everyone likes to talk about that. If you dig hard enough into the details, like Don Ostler did at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, an obvious solution will jump out of the pile.
2 - Tie it to the business, and keep-it-short. Solutions should either save money or increase revenue. If you aren't doing one or the other, you aren't going to be strategic to the Finance function of your company. And believe me, you need a friend at the bank. In the case of Diane Ball at Delnore Community Hospital, she sold the leadership stress management for nurses with a case built on retention (there was 30% turnover in nursing) and how it saves money on recruiting and onboarding. The COO jumped on a plane, attended a Heartmath training session, and implemented it immediately.
3 - Build a team and spread out. This is how Joan Krujewski did it at Microsoft: She had an agenda to make the company the greenest one in the world. She started in the hardware B.U., using a power point presentation to get green-minded softies to identify themselves. She corralled them into a network that represented key functions of the unit: Sales, engineering, packaging, etc. Then they spread out to other BUs (operating system, software group) and in the end, several hundred people innovated product packaging and environmental management.
4 - Go Martin Luther on the brass. This is a last resort measure, but works in a pinch. At Motorola, sales director Art Sundry got fed up that the Japanese were killing his business due to quality and price (which was virtuously dropping due to good quality and low rework). At a national leaders summit, he raised his hand and asked Paul Galvin Jr. (son of founder) why the meeting was spending more time on quality. When asked why, Sundry shouted, "Because we make junk!" The rest of the meeting centered on quality and within a year, Six Sigma was born.
I can't wait to give this talk, as The Power Of One is one of my favorite subjects to evangelize. If you'd like to spark this thinking inside your company, please contact me with suggestions of meetings you are having where I'd be a fitting keynote speaker.