Monday Morning Quick Tip: Be Prepared

Robert Bayden Powell - Founder of the Boy Scouts

At some point when you face an audience, disaster will strike. The projector will blow out, or the power will fail, or the road crew outside the venue will choose the most important part of your speech to fire up the jackhammer right outside the door.

So, what do you do in that situation? Give up? Shut down and walk out? Yell at the construction workers to shut up and move on? Throw the projector against the wall? Curl up into a ball in the corner and cry?

Never fear! Like the trusty old Boy Scout motto, you’ve come prepared for anything!
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The Power of a Voice – In Memory of Ted Sorensen

Speechwriter Ted Sorensen at the White House

When Jack Kennedy spoke, the world paid attention. His words came clearly, shining through his heavy New England accent and delivering his message. He spoke often of hope, and service, and the aspirations of all human beings. Kennedy calmed a nation in crisis, raised up a volunteer army for peace, and inspired us to shoot for the moon.

And behind the scenes, crafting the language, creating the message, was Theodore C. “Ted” Sorensen.

Sorensen was a quiet young man from Nebraska, whose words would help a President leave an indelible mark on the world. He wrote with a simplicity and an elegance that many have tried to imitate, and none have ever matched. Kennedy’s inaugural address was only 14 minutes long, yet it stands among the best in the history of the US Presidency. … Continue Reading

No Apology Necessary


I have a confession to make: I am a nerd. I write code, and void my warranties, and prod and poke, and hack and slash. And I enjoy being a real geek. Part of my geekiness includes watching presentations on technologies; an activity that I was engaged in just this morning.

I was watching a Google Tech Talk presented by Linus Torvalds, the creator and maintainer of the Linux Kernel (the foundation for a range of open-source operating systems and technologies). Linus is a tremendously important and influential person. Perhaps one of the most influential people in the world. He was talking to a large room of developers about a piece of software he wrote that changed the way people think about software development.

And the first thing out of his mouth was an apology.
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Monday Morning Quick Tip: Make A Plan


“Okay then, I’ll just follow you.”

I hate hearing those words. I am a terrible person to head-up a convoy. I have a really good sense of direction, but I also have a lead foot. Other drivers with lesser directional prowess have to keep up, or they eat my dust and wind up totally lost. I have waited hours for people who started following me, and were unable to keep up.

I’ve seen speakers fall into the same trap. They forge ahead, sometimes with a keen sense of direction, but a failure to communicate that direction to their audience. Their audience, as a result, winds up lost and bewildered.
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Speeches on Film – Henry V


Over on Manner of Speaking, about a week ago, John Zimmer did an awesome breakdown of the Battle of St. Crispin’s Day speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V. John’s insights are really great.

Today is St Crispin’s Day (Oct. 25th), so, in honor of that, I wanted to share John’s post with you all. Head on over to Manner of Speaking, and check out one of the greatest speeches in theater history, delivered by one of today’s most talented performers.

Know Your Limits: Improved Focus for Improved Speaking


Mnmlist has a great little piece up today about the zen of limits. The upshot of the piece is that creating limits, even when they seem arbitrary, are often an essential component for figuring out what is really important.

We have all kinds of limits and structures and “rules” for public speaking. We have clear forms and styles, guidelines for creating good visual aids, rules about motion and gestures. All of these serve the purpose of helping call attention to what is most important.
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Monday Morning Quick Tip: Think Differently


In a speech to the Royal Society on re-thinking education, Sir Ken Robinson talks about the need to approach problems in different ways. He suggests that instead of our normal modes of linear thought, or convergent thought, that we ought to foster divergent thinking.

Robinson explains that the modes of thinking we foster are designed for a world of linearity and the production and reproduction of industrial goods and labor. In order to break out of that mold, Robinson suggests that we need to foster more creative thinking of the type we’re all really good at as kids. It’s a really interesting argument, and it has some very serious implications for education. But what does it have to do with speech-making?
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Speaking Tips from Around the Web


In today’s post, I’ve gathered a handful of excellent links to some great articles people have published on a variety of topics. From making the most of social media, to how to recover when things collapse, there’s some great stuff out there that will help you become better at capturing the audience’s attention.

Social Media Goodness:

  • Integrating Twitter in Public Speaking by Denise Graveline. Denise offers some excellent tips and tricks for making use of the Twitter “backchannel” as a means of preparing for, and responding to, your audience. Great article.
  • Keep an eye on the Backchannel by Cliff Atkinson. This is a slightly older article about dealing with negative attention on Twitter during a presentation or talk. Other than the fact that it uses the word “Tweckler,” an offense for which Cliff should be beaten with a wet noodle, it has some really good insights into making use of the backchannel to respond to criticism.

Tools of the Trade:

  • How To Use a Microphone by Lisa Braithwaite. I make no secret about my distaste for microphones. I find that people use them poorly, and often they hinder more than they help. Lisa outlines, quickly and clearly, some of the key things you need to know if you’re going to use a microphone in your speech. (She even has a downloadable PDF at the end that you can use to remind yourself.)
  • Use PowerPoint to Create a Visual Resume by Jon Thomas. This is a really innovative idea, that brings new utility to PowerPoint. This article spawned a great discussion with one of my colleagues that will become my next update. Keep an eye out here to find out more.

Coping With Disaster:

  • When PowerPoint Attacks by Tim Washer. Tim is hilarious. And the video he links to in this article is a spectacular comedy of errors during one of his presentations to the Kennedy Center at Harvard University. Absolutely nothing, it seems, goes according to plan. Tim takes it in stride, and demonstrates the best way to handle PowerPoint disasters.
  • 5 Tips for When A Speech Goes Horribly Wrong by Nick Morgan. Building on Tim’s theme, Nick Morgan takes a good look at other coping mechanisms to help you handle when things break down. The lesson learned is that audiences are helpful, and they want you to succeed.

Any other hot links to great content around the web? Share ‘em in the comments, folks!

3 Ways to Prepare for Speaking at a Moment’s Notice


Mark Twain once quipped that he “never could make a good impromptu speech without several hours to prepare it.” And the truth of the matter is that the ability to deliver a quality speech on-demand is a skill that takes a huge amount of practice and preparation.

If you’re asked to speak without any notice at all, what do you say? How do you keep an audience engaged? How do you stay organized, and prevent yourself from rambling? These three tips should give you a good start on how to do the legwork so that you can be a great impromptu speaker.
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Monday Morning Quick Tip: Breathe


Dealing with stage fright, speaking loudly enough to be heard, and making yourself understood are all key pieces to delivering a good speech. And they all have one skill in common that is essential to making them work: Good Breathing. Learning how to breathe properly is necessary for becoming a good public speaker.

I was once delivering a monologue in a play, the delivery was intended to be stilted and loud. I went for it with gusto. About three-quarters of the way through the speech, I felt myself running out of breath. Rather than stopping for a bit to suck in some much-needed oxygen, I kept right on shouting. I had to push so hard to get sound out from my now-empty lungs that I strained the muscles in my ribcage.
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