How to speak on the spot – successfully

Being put “on the spot” can be a challenge. And yet to some it seems so easy. They rise to the occasion, speak fluently, seemingly without preparation, and with such ease. We would all like to be able to emulate them – that effortless presentation of ideas, that seemingly impromptu connection with an audience, and an outcome that establishes them as credible and convincing.

In this article, let’s look at 6 techniques you can implement to build your fluency and confidence, so that you, too, can seemingly present with effortless ease.

1. Stand very deliberately and take time to begin. Pause. Smile if it is appropriate. Take a moment or two to think if you need to, and to ground yourself physically. Stand up straight to build confidence.

2. Do not apologise. You will have something to say even if it is about what you don’t know about the subject and why. Apologising ruins your confidence, deflates the audience’s confidence in you and is generally demoralising. It is also a waste of the opportunity to create a great attention-getting opening that leads into your ideas.

3. Begin with a strong opening and with confidence. Make a bold statement of your theme or to introduce what you want to say. It may be a challenge to the audience. It may be a strong statement of belief. The emphasis here is on the word strong. You convince your audience, and in the process, you convince yourself that you are confident and have a strong theme.

4. If necessary, repeat the topic out loud, either as an opening or following the strong opening. It gives you the feeling of gaining time, and it helps you develop your theme and tie it into the topic.

5. Scary though it may be, maintain eye contact. You and the audience are all in this together. Share the experience. Make the tone conversational so that you engage them in your material and presentation. Use words that you would use with them in conversation. If possible relate your material to someone in the audience or the organisation involved or to the geographical area.

6. Stick with your topic. Use your stories, examples and other support material to relate to that topic. Call back, if possible, to your opening statement. Stay focussed on your message.

7. Take questions and answers if there is time and/or opportunity, but not right at the end. Instead, finish strong. If nothing else, conclude with a reiteration of your opening statement rehashed in light of what you have said during the speech. If there is no need to thank anyone at the end, then a nod and/or smile is enough to finish, and can be far more powerful.

Add a dash of practise to this recipe. With experience you can build these techniques into habits so that they come to you more easily. With experience, and success, your confidence will grow. And with experience you will become more comfortable with not only speaking “on the spot”, but also interacting with your audience “on the spot” as well.

© Bronwyn Ritchie If you want to include this article in your publication, please do, but please include the following information with it:

Bronwyn Ritchie is a professional librarian, writer, award-winning speaker and trainer. She is a certified corporate trainer and speech contest judge with POWERtalk, a certified World Class Speaking coach, and has had 30 years experience speaking to audiences and training in public speaking. Get her 30 speaking tips FREE and boost your public speaking mastery over 30 weeks. Join now or go to

Thought for Thursday – peace

“Peace is not won by those who fiercely guard their differences, but by those who with open minds and hearts seek out connections.”

— Katherine Paterson

Photo source:

Visual aid – The Swinging Ball of Death

… a wonderful example of using a visual aid – Who needs PowerPoint?!! Watch the language he uses, and the use of pause

Public Speaking Tip: Extremely Small Customization

[Via Tom Antion]

“When speaking to a very small group of people you should be able to include an extremely large amount of customization. You should have researched the group and done your normal homework including phone interviews with the expected attendees (if it is a public event and you don’t know who is coming, be set up way early so you can greet and interview people as they arrive.) Jot down a note of why each person attended. Then, when a section of your talk applies to them, point it out and name them by name.
Example: “John, you told me you wanted to learn how to sell more to the people that visit your website. This section specifically addresses that, especially the part about the psychology of the sale.”
Don’t assume that people will perk up when you come to the part that specifically applies to them. Make a big deal to point it out to them. You will be adding an extreme amount of value which makes them realize that it was a good thing they attended. Oh and don’t forget they’ll love you for it.”

3 Conversations You Must Have to Get Big-Fee Speaking Engagements

Many experts who want more big-fee speeches start off with all the right tools: great topics, fabulous speaking style, and a book with a lot of buzz. Unfortunately, many don’t get past the free-speech circuit. Their book and publicity get people to take their call, but their conversations cause them to lose the speaking engagement.

Any expert who wants big speaking fees has to be adept at handling three conversations in the sales process. What you say in those situations is the difference between initial interest and getting the gig.

Conversation #1: Talking to the False Positive Buyer

What happens: You get an incoming call from someone who needs a speaker. You give them your spiel, and they are over-the-top enthusiastic about your topic and expertise. You just know that you’re going to speak to this group. You can just see all the spin-off business – and then reality hits. Either the prospect goes silent or after chasing them for several weeks, you learn another speaker was chosen.

What’s going on: The person you talked to was assigned to find a speaker but wasn’t told the budget. They were assigned by the real buyer, who found someone themselves and told the false positive folks to shut down the process. It happens all the time.

What you must do: Trust, but verify. Answer questions but also probe. My favorite tactic is to give a hypothetical situation. Something like, “Let’s pretend that I’m the one and you know it. What’s our next step? Do I send you the contract?” A false positive buyer will say something like, “Well, no. If I think you’re the one, I have to go sell you to Mr. Big Cheese.” Now you have your answer. Give them enough information to pass along but not too much that they can make a decision by themselves. And whatever you do, give a range of fees, not a specific fee.

Conversation #2: Talking to the Real Buyer

What happens: You get a referral from one of your high-end clients who recommends you to their high-end colleague. After weeks of telephone tag (at least they’re returning your calls) you finally connect and discuss your speaking. The buyer talks in more broad terms, such as what’s going on with the audience and the role the meeting plays in an overall initiative. They begin the conversation with, “We are not looking for a speaker. We are looking for someone who can…” What you say next will seal the deal or toss you out of the running.

What’s going on: These buyers have an idea of what they want but not a specific title or topic in mind. They probe for: 1) your ideas to see if they agree with you, and 2) to see if you can deliver. They are less concerned about how many times you’ve spoken in the past. They want to know if your content will help them do what they need. They are bold and decisive. If you hit a home run here, the close will be very casual. If not, they will decide you are not a good “fit.” Once they decide, there’s no going back. You have to get this right the first time.

What you must do: Talk about your approach to their situation and showcase your point of view. Then, prove what you know. Use the buyer as an example of what you would do. You have to show these skeptics they are getting a fresh and relevant perspective. And finally, have a killer title – something clear, concise, and compelling. This will focus their thinking and help them clarify what they will get from you. You want the buyer to think, “Hey, this stuff isn’t out there already.”

Conversation #3: Dealing with Last-Minute Negotiations

What happens: One of two scenarios is in play here. First, you’re dealing with the buyer and they hand off your contract to the purchasing department or the department (such as meeting planning) whose budget is being used. They see your fee, and their brain explodes. Second, you send the contract to the executive you’ve talked with several times and don’t get it back. You follow up several times and don’t get an answer. Finally, they say something like, “Hey, this event budget just got cut in half. We need you to sharpen your pencil here.”

What’s going on: In the first scenario, the lower-level folks don’t like your fee because they are not used to paying that amount. They think they can get another speaker for less. So, instead of going to the real buyer and raising Cain, they go to you and just say “no.” This happens a lot for speeches under $15,000. Second, you’re dealing with a buyer who needs to know that they got “a deal.” They want to know that either so they can brag to colleagues or so they don’t have to hassle with moving money around. They think that if you want to speak so bad, you’ll reduce your fee.

What you must do: In the first scenario, explain that Mr. Big Cheese approved that amount. If they still say no, go back to your buyer. If they waffle, give them something extra, such as another session or more books for the audience. Say something like, “Hey, I didn’t talk to XXX about this, but if you need it, I’m happy to help out.”

In the second scenario, you have a delicate balance. If you play hardball, the buyer will tell others that “you weren’t available after all,” and no one will notice you’re gone. Instead, offer to cut something out that they really want. When they balk, then come back with more stuff (again, an extra session or more books). If you give them a deal to brag about, most of the time they will relent.

The Higher the Fee, the Higher the Competition

Where there is money, there are more than two people trying to get it. And when it comes to speaking for big fees, a lot of folks are going after that invitation. Your compelling branding and marketing tools are great first steps. But your conversations seal the deal. Be ready for these interactions and you’ll get your fair share of big-speaking engagements.


Vickie K. Sullivan, President of Sullivan Speaker Services, Inc., is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for experts who want strong brands with high-fee buyers. Since 1987, she has worked with thousands of experts in a wide variety of industries to launch their big-fee speaking, professional service, and book/product empires in highly lucrative markets. Vickie speaks and consults with clients throughout the world about selection trends in high-fee segments and strategies that position experts for those opportunities. Vickie’s perspective has been published in USAToday magazine,, The New York Times, and Investor’s Business Daily. Her market intelligence updates are distributed throughout the US as well as 17 other countries. Sign up to receive Vickie’s market intelligence by visiting or contact Vickie by emailing

saying nothing

‘Of those who say nothing, few are silent.’
Thomas Neiel

Your Question and Answer Session – 3 ways to set yourself and your audience up for success

1. Encourage questions

I’m sure you have been to a seminar or presentation where the speaker asks for questions and there is an uncomfortable silence. It is embarrassing to say the least – for the presenter and for the audience. Perhaps it has happened to you. There are four ways to avoid this situation.

You can ask the audience to ask the person sitting next to them what they took away from the session. Some people ask for “ah-has”. Then you can ask for the outcomes of that discussion and extend that to comments and questions.

You can begin with a question yourself – say it is one that you are asked or have been asked in the past. Provide the answer and then ask who has the next question as though the audience were already alive with questions.

Before you begin your presentation, you can set up people to ask questions for you. Provide them with the questions if necessary. That way you can begin with something that will provoke more questions, or even set up for some humour to make people more relaxed and open to asking.

Avoid the danger of asking a closed-ended question. Rather than asking if there are any questions, ask “Who has the first/next question” or, more powerfully, “What are your questions?”

2. Create Impact
Answering questions is as much a speaking exercise as the presentation itself, so the sorts of techniques you use for success in your speaking will work here too.

Add impact to your answer by answering with a story. Making information interesting, relevant and memorable is just as important here.

While your whole presentation is a conversation, it is a public one. So treat the individual asker of the question with respect, and then answer to the group. That respect includes thanking the person. It includes avoiding sarcasm and giving the question its due. Repeat the question. This is partly to make sure everyone has heard it. It is also an opportunity to ensure you have understood the question thoroughly before you launch into your answer. It can give you, too, an opportunity to think about how you will respond. If you know that you always need this time to think, use pause here, to buy yourself that time. But make sure you pause for every question!

3. Be Prepared

Spend time anticipating the sorts of questions this audience will ask. It will give you a chance to prepare the best way to answer. It means getting to know the audience beforehand, which you will have done in the preparations for the presentation anyway. Talk to the event organiser, talk to other members of the organisation and if at all possible talk to the audience before you present. Not only will this give you an understanding of how the audience members think and what they need, and a foundation for preparing for their questions. It will also give you material you can use in your presentation and in your answers that are specifically customised to this audience and even to specific members.

You can also prepare some humour to use as well. You can inject humour into the answers to lighten the session and, if necessary, to deflect any discomfort.

Finally you can prepare cards on which you can ask people to write questions during breaks or before the session.

Being prepared is “half the battle” when it comes to any public speaking challenge and it applies just as much to your question and answer sessions. If you are prepared with ways to smooth the process, with an understanding of your audience and the questions they might ask, with a set of boundaries and with Plan B, C and D, then you can turn your Q&A from a fear-invoking challenge into a positive, powerful experience.

© Bronwyn Ritchie If you want to include this article in your publication, please do, but please include the following information with it:

Bronwyn Ritchie is a professional librarian, writer, award-winning speaker and trainer. She is a certified corporate trainer and speech contest judge with POWERtalk, a certified World Class Speaking coach, and has had 30 years experience speaking to audiences and training in public speaking. Get her 30 speaking tips FREE and boost your public speaking mastery over 30 weeks. Join now or go to

Sweep clean

“If each of us sweeps in front of our own steps, the whole world would be clean.”

— Goethe

The Exceptional Presenter

The Exceptional Presenter: A Proven Formula to Open Up and Own the Room

by Timothy J. Koegel

It’s often reported that the number one fear among American adults is public speaking. But in today’s competitive business world, effective communication is a crucial skill, and the cost of being less than effective is quite high. From the White House to boardrooms worldwide, Tim Koegel has strengthened presentations, media relations and communications skills of CEOs and world leaders alike with his renowned coaching abilities. His new book, The Exceptional Presenter, lays out his techniques in a format perfectly suited to today’s busy world.
 This little hardback is incredibly easy to read. Extremely well organized, it’s written in clear, jargon-free language. Each of its many lessons covers just a few pages, and is composed of short, straight-to-the-point paragraphs. Sized to fit easily in the side pocket of a laptop case, it’s an ideal way to kill time at an airport gate, on a flight, or even during those dead half-hours that often pop up between convention sessions.

Better still, this book really delivers on its promise. =>

In Speaking, “Sell” Is a Four Letter Word

It’s weird. Professional speakers, who are often paid thousands of dollars to give a one-hour talk, are expected to “sell from the platform” – that is, encourage audience members to go to their product table at the back of the room to buy their books, CDs, DVDs, notepads and promotional items using a short commercial at the end of their talk. The problem is that when the pitch goes on too long, it can backfire.

But as a free speaker who is typically compensated only with a free meal or a small gift, you are not supposed to sell at all. Why? Because you were invited to speak by a particular group; you were not hired by them. It is understood that you are there to educate, engage and entertain that group, not take the occasion to promote your own agenda.

The problem is that you ARE there to sell something, and you should expect the investment of your time, effort and money in securing and giving your presentation to pay off in terms of product sales, new clients, referrals, or some other form of financial return. Here are six ways you can encourage your audience to take action on your behalf without turning them off:

1) Change your thinking: Think of sales of your products as a way to nurture your relationship with your audience, rather than as change in your pocket. The only reason people will buy what you have to offer is because your talk touched them or taught them something, and they want to take you home with them. Buying your book, CD, etc., allows them to do that.

2) Remember that nobody likes to be sold, but everybody loves to buy: Pitching is offensive, but persuasion can be pleasant. Rather than trying to sell products, your mission should be to encourage people to want what you have. Since they came to hear you, they are already interested in your topic, and when you respect their intelligence and don’t pitch or push, you’ll find they will be interested in you and be more inclined to linger afterwards.

3) Have a drawing using a sign-up form: Pass out a sign-up form for your ezine (email newsletter) and draw for a copy of your book, CD, or a free consulting session. As you give it to the winner, tell them and the audience that you’ll autograph their copy – and everyone else’s – at your table after your talk.

4) Incorporate your product subtly into your talk: I recently heard an author who excerpted an exercise from her book and had the audience totally engaged by it. During her talk, she would occasionally refer to her book by saying, “This is on page ______” or “This is in the chapter titled ______.” It was extremely effective and completely unobtrusive.

5) Be realistic: I wish I could tell you that you can expect X% of the audience to buy your products, but the fact is that each speaking engagement is unique, and so is each audience.

When I was doing a lot of speaking for my book Secrets of the Hidden Job Market: Change Your Thinking to Get the Job of Your Dreams, my experience ranged from making no sales to selling 44 books in 30 minutes. Same talk but different audiences.

6) Think relationships: Since people do business with people they like, your goal is to develop relationships with those who may have an interest in what you have to offer, and to encourage them to refer you to their friends. Your speaking success won’t be measured in product sales, but rather in the business that comes later.

So the next time you get up in front of an audience, don’t see them as prospects; think of them as people who are there to hear you share with them something they want to know. And very shortly you’ll discover why speaking is the most cost-effective way to generate business for your business.


Janet White is a 40-year veteran of business to business public relations, marketing and sales. Her diverse career includes being a reporter for Newsday, operations assistant at WABC-AM in New York when it was the # 1 radio station in America, 12 years as a commercial real estate writer and publicist in New York and Dallas, and 14 years as a sales rep for mobility, custom rehab, bariatric and patient handling medical equipment.

In 2010, Janet came back to her public relations and marketing roots and established The JW Speakers Agency, Dallas/Fort Worth’s only booking agency for business owners who use free speaking as a way to increase their exposure, broaden their network and bring in new clients, and emerging speakers who need guidance on building their speaking business.