October 10, 2013
A few years ago, I discovered a technique for overcoming stage fright. We all likely have to fight through nerves when making presentations, sales pitches or participating in meetings -- especially when the audience is tough or the stakes are high.
I've learned that our performance is a function of our thinking patterns, and in particular, the state of our subconcious mind. If we are confident, we can relax for easy power. If we are afraid, we are either too timid or inappropriately bombastic. Furthermore, the last thoughts we take to the stage ultimately frame our mood and outlook.
So what are your last thoughts before it's go-time? In this keynote excerpt, I share my fear-busting technique with a group of high performing sales people. While it seems like a simple plan, it requires one's imagination and determination to rise above the situation. Can you do this?
Reload A Success Experience For Total Confidence by Tim Sanders
September 13, 2013
This Tuesday, I had the pleasure of being the opening keynote at the Cultivate Fox Cities conference in Neenah, Wisconsin. What a great community of business professionals! They exhibit a set of mid-western values including a put-people-first mindset, a long view and pride driven tenacity.
Stanley Marcus Jr. counseled me to share my knowledge when and wherever I can, especially if I think it can add value. He told me there was a side-benefit that would help me greatly over my career: Feedback. He told me, "You'll never get dumber by trying to make someone else smarter." He's right too. When I speak at events like this, my talking points get feedback and often, my future talks are enriched by them.
At the Cultivate event, my talk (The Power Of Great Relationships) was based on the idea that we should share our knowledge and our network with people we do business with to "multiply their value." This is the secret to sustainable success and real business power.
1. Share Knowledge: I propose always having a mentee, which you select because he or she is going places and you know something that can help them. Beth, a local award winning mentor, told me afterwards that prior to engaging with her mentees, she gives them an outline of what they'll cover and when. She often gives it to them in writing, in advance of their first real engagement. "It's a curriculum, and you should expect them to follow it," she explained. Good point.
2. Share Your Network: I believe that we should introduce three people every week that should meet. To do that, I advised my audience to reverse the conversation when meeting new people (at events, on the job, etc.). Instead of seeing if they can help you or if they have status, we instead, screen their life situation to see if we've got network contacts to offer them.
Steve, a new entrepreneur just a few years out of college, approached me after the talk to tell me about how difficult it is to "break in to networking" when it's hard to figure out who new contacts really need to meet. He also said that if you have a small network, you need to look for a friend-of-a-friend contact if you want to add value. "I think good networkers ask good questions," he told me. It's not like casual conversation yields a list of "gotta meet" people. So asking, "What do you do?" may be an unproductive ice breaker. Instead, he's been taking a page from Never Eat Alone, opening conversations with "What are you you working on that you are excited about?"
Plussing with him, I suggested we can delve into the networking dig even = deeper with "And who do you need to meet to get there?" Or, "Are their any hurdles? What will it take to jump over them?"
Expect more trip reports in the future. Next week, I'm giving a keynote at TechStars' annual FounderCon conference. I'll be talking about Putting People First to 350+ startup founders. I'm certain they'll give me a lot of feedback too...Tweet
August 13, 2013
Last Friday, I spoke at an event in Chicago. Afterwards, on the way to the airport, I checked the hashtag conversation to see how I did, and to answer tweets from the crowd. It's exciting to know that you can get these insights so quickly!
As I combed through the conversation, I wondered whether the event owner or his staff were combing through these tweets too. Which led me to think a little about the value of Twitter for creating more effective meetings. For the last year, I've been speaking to audiences about how social media is the ultimate listening post for brands and service providers. Modern markets are connected conversations, where the players improve by tuning into it.
For anyone hosting a meeting (or needing it to be successful), Twitter can help you analyze how well your speakers or panels are connecting with your influencers, early adopters and Gen Y'rs. Here's what you can do to take advantage of it:
* Start The Conversation Early - Pick the hashtag for your event, and keep it short. Likely, it will be the letters for your conference and the two digit number of the current year. This year's Association of General Contractors meeting should pick #AGC13, for example. Promote your hashtag on the event website, in registration acknowledgements and event reminders. Post Twitter updates to the hashtag to get the ball rolling, increasing their frequency closer to the event.
* Promote The Hashtag At the Event - The more you promote it, the more people participate, and if you reach a tipping point, you may be 33-50% of your entire attendees chirping in. Embed the hashtag and the Twitter logo in Power Point templates as well as signage, and announce it during housekeeping remarks. When I speak, that's my 2nd slide! During the event, tweet out quotes from speakers and don't forget to include the hashtag. If you want to elicit the Jumbotron effect, project the hashtag stream on one or both of your screens (like the image above).
* Setup Your Monitoring Dashboard (Alerts) - Personally, I prefer Hootsuite as a free service to monitor Twitter conversation. Setup a hashtag stream to track all mentions of the event hashtag. You can setup up to 10 streams to monitor various keywords or phrases. Use a few of them to capture conversations about your company, association, full event name and keynote speakers (or your CEO, if she's presnting).
* Jump Into the Fray - At event breaks, be there to retweet or favorite updates. Interact directly with anyone having a bad time, but don't necessarily try to settle debates about the content or anything sensitive. The more you participate, the wider the conversation grows, which can increase demand for next year's event.
* Look For Engagement Levels, Not Survey Results - Since this isn't the entire audience, I'm not suggesting you decide on the event or a speaker's success by the thumbs up or thumbs down sentiment on Twitter. Most of it will be positive, unless one of your speakers or meals is a bomb. And in that case, you'll appreciate how Twitter makes it real-time, so you can do something about it! In general, look for engagement levels. Which parts of your meeting had the most buzz? What points resonated the most with the attendees? What were the hottest issues? Did anyone speak to crickets? Why?
One other note: Ask your guest speakers, sponsors and vendors to chip into the conversation as well. They want more followers, so it's a win/win/win. This will expand the conversation even wider, and perhaps, create more direct connections with the audience and everyone involved in it.
June 26, 2013
If you are a meeting planner, event manager or charged with organizing your company's annual conference, you likely hire speakers to give keynotes. Their fees can range from a few thousand to six figures, mostly depending on their celebrity or business profile.
Since the last recession, speakers have had to fight for every piece of their business. Events have tinkered with using free (friends of event) speakers or reducing the speaking slots to a single keynote. Today, it is clearly a buyer's market. So what are you getting for your $$$$? Ideally, your outside speaker reinforces your event's objective and moves the audience to action. And often, that's hard for a speaker to accomplish with a canned speech or even worse, a tailored speech that's off-the-cuff.
If I were you, here's what I would expect from a speaker I've hired for my event:
1. Interview Call -- The speaker will do some research on the event, industry and organization and then host a conference call with meeting stakeholders. This call is about defining the event's objectives, the audience profile (from demographics to psychographics), the desired outcome and at a high level, and what the speaker's talking points will be. As Nick Morgan writes, "the only reason to give a speech is to change the world," and you can't do that as a speaker unless you know all of the above.
2. The Keynote Outline -- The speaker will submit a one or two page outline of the talk, including case studies naming companies or organizations involved. This is important because some case studies may involve competitors to the event host or sponsors. Whenever possible, the outline should include at least one or two industry relevant examples or takeaway points. (That's real customization, BTW.) You should socialize this outline to all the meeting stakeholders and not be timid about going back to the speaker for clarifications or modifications.
3. Meet and Greet -- In most situations, there is a reception or dinner each night of an event. This is a great opportunity for your speaker to meet his or her audience and deepend insights for the talk the next day. If your speaker wins over a small portion of the crowd the night before, odds are the next day will equal a total success.
4. A Post-Event Deliverable -- Often times, the deliverable may be an audio or video recording of his/her talk to be distributed to non-attendees. (Get permission first.) In my case, I've offered a custom book list for more reading on the topics I've covered. And the book lists never include my works! For my latest topic (The Social Opportunity), my audience receive a free copy of an eBook I've written on the subject which contains at least two industry relevant case studies. In fact, I've gone a step further: I research the audience members if it is a customer conference, and when I can find a case study in the crowd, I interview them and include them in the book.
I know this sounds like a lot to ask of a speaker, but if you get it, you'll have an effective talk that generates long term value for your audience (and makes you look like a rock star!). While some of my speaker friends think this is over-reaching, I've found that it's a win/win approach. The gigs I've worked the hardest on are usually the ones that produce the best results.
NOTE: Requirements 2 and 3 don't usually apply when you've hired a motivational speaker to share his or her inspirational story. I would still expect any speaker I hired to be able to tie their story or experience to my event objectives, though.Tweet
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.