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[Quick Public Speaking tip] WAIT! Don’t start talking until you are ready

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The Customer is Always Right. And for the duration of your speech, the audience is your only customer



It has always been a challenge to maintain the view that the customer is always right – not just in speaking, but in business especially.  It can try the most patient and accommodating business owner or customer service professional.

But if we can achieve it, maintain that view, go into our speaking with that view, then everything will fall into place so much more easily.

Validating your audience in any communication is guaranteed to build trust and engagement.

One of the basic premises of storytelling is that you need to meet the audience where they are.

And yes of course our audiences have the right to their objections to our propositions.  The sooner we address those objections the sooner we can hope to succeed in putting forward our visions for them.

The structure of your presentation falls into place.

If you believe that your audience is always right, that they deserve the respect that that entails, then you will be happy to prepare all that you can to gain the understanding you need of what your audience feels, thinks, knows is right.

You will build confidence and calm because you are not trying to manipulate, you are giving respect and service.

And you will have laid the groundwork for success for yourself and for your customer/audience.

The sooner speakers understand this, that public speaking is not a manipulation, not a performance to be judged, not all about themselves, the better the standard of speaking will be.  No, we may not have great “orators”, but we will have more successful public speakers, not afraid to be authentic and of service, and more audiences prepared to come back for more.






[Quick public speaking tip] Watch the clock

One of the secrets of great speakers is their use of time.

They know that if they have been given a time limit for their speech or presentation, that they will stick to that.


There are four very good reasons for us all to do the same, if we want to be successful.



Sticking to time forces you to  be very clear in your message – no waffling, no beating around the bush.  And that sort of focus really adds power to your message.  If you want an outcome – for your audience to do, be or think something as a result of your presentation, make that message very, very clear.

Someone may have been hired you to speak – an event organiser, the program co-ordinator for an organisation.  If you want to be re-hired, you need to keep that organiser confident that you can deliver the goods and make their job easier.  If they have to step in to haul you off the stage, or if their whole schedule is upset because you spoke too long, then – unless your content went through the roof in terms of outcomes -they will not be terribly enthusiastic about re-hiring you or recommending you to their colleagues.

Really this is just common courtesy, not just a selfish, calculated piece of behaviour.  You, me, us, extending courtesy, thinking of how we impact other people.  It should be part of our value system, deeper and stronger than any need to hustle or sell or manipulate.  It feels right.  And of course, how we treat people will be part of your brand, part of the impact you make, and part of the way you will be remembered, because the behaviour indicates the deeper values.  We are, after all, creating relationships which will bring in returns in multiples, far easier than trying to get business or results from every single stand-alone speaking gig.

Your audiences will form an opinion of  you as well.  As Stephen Keague said,  ‘No audience ever complained about a presentation or speech being too short‘, but they will complain if you speak for too long.

Cuban President Fidel Castro is known for having delivered the longest continuous speech ever given in the General Assembly of the United Nations.  Delivered in September 1960, it lasted for 4 hours and 29 minutes.  He also spoke in a New York church, at a gathering of supporters, people who supported Cuba and its policies and having a closer relationship with the United States.  He spoke for 4 hours and 16 minutes.  After three hours, and the presentation of statistics from wads of paper, some of his audience had fallen asleep in the pews.  Others walked out exhausted, leaving the church half full by the end of his speech.  And these were enthusiastic supporters!

None of us wants the audience falling asleep like that, or walking out; after all what we want (and need) is their attention.  Because something else that all speakers want (and need) from their audiences is to be remembered, to be reiterated around the water cooler the next day, quoted in memories of the event, and requested for the next conference or training day.  To be remembered.

At Gettysburg in 1863, Edward Everett delivered a 13,607 word speech, that clocked in at 2 hours. The world has forgotten those 13,607 words, but not the three-minute address given by  President Abraham Lincoln – famed and certainly not forgotten.

The value is not in how much you say but in what you say – your message.

And I know from experience that when you have not prepared properly, not honed your message to fit the time allowed, you find yourself racing through, speaking quickly just to fit it all in.  University professors might have wanted a display of all the knowledge I had, but my audiences just want what is relevant to them and what they need to learn or believe or use.   The curse of T.M.I.  (Too Much Information) is very real.  And if it results in a speedy delivery, then you will have lost the advantage of being able to add power to your words with a variety or pace, and the use of pause.  It can also result in having no flexibility, no space to answer unexpected question, deal with interruptions or change with changing time slots.  Knowing exactly the message and main points allows for all of those things.

It may be useful to you to time your speech.  Practise it beforehand and time it.  Or if you write it out beforehand,  (I’m not sure why you would do that, but there may be good reason), you can use the fact that people tend to speak at 110 to 140 words per minute.  That will allow you to work out how long the speech will take.  Of course if you speak faster or slower than that, you will need to adjust.  But be prepared enough to know how much time you have and how much time you will take.   Winston Churchill said, “I’m going to make a long speech because I’ve not had the time to prepare a short one” and undoubtedly that was not to his advantage.  Preparation counts!

I couldn’t resist reminding you of another famous quote of Winston Churchill’s  “A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt, long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.”

So while it may seem a cool, confident thing to be relaxed about the time you take, it’s better to build the habit of being aware of time and using it well.  You create a focussed powerful message, you increase the chances of building favourable outcomes for your event coordinator and audience and you are free to speak with flexibility and engaging, memorable power.  Watch the clock and you will have added another success tool to your speaking tool kit, and be a speaker who is remembered and rehired.



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Be driven by “Good > Better > Best” … your way!


Be the best.


The best.

Successful, yes.

Getting results, yes.

Feeling good about your speaking – in flow, connecting, feeling the power.

The best.

Most famous.

Most recognised.

Admired, hired, applauded, discussed at conference mealtimes, quoted.

The best.

Better than … who … Tony Robbins, the Dalai Lama? Better than … Seth Godin, Barack Obama?

Good will not get you there, only the best.

Not your best.

The best.

That’s an exciting prospect, and certainly the basis for a Big Hairy Audacious Goal.

Do it.

Believe that it is possible. Believe that public speaking is based not on talent but on study and learning, practice and experience, trial and error, failure and success.



Whether or not you become the best, several things will happen.



We learn from those we seek to emulate and overtake. Learn their secrets to success. Learn what works for them.

I want to emphasise “emulate” and “overtake”.  Competition can be a great driver, comparison the absolute opposite.


In that process we learn about ourselves. What works for others does not always work for me.  I am me, with my own style, my own talents, my own aims and outcomes.

Have you discovered, yet, what your weaknesses and strengths are, your signature style, your aims – as a speaker, as a competitor, as a striver towards excellence and being your best?


Finally, no matter what the outcome, whether we become the best in the world, the best in our niche, the best in the neighbourhood, we can only improve

and become the best we can be.

And out of that comes the feeling good about our speaking – the being in flow, connecting, feeling the power … being admired, hired, applauded, discussed at conference mealtimes, quoted

in the niche, in the neighbourhood.

Let’s do it!

Do the study and learning, get the practice and experience, the trial and error, the failure and success.

Be good, get better, be the best,

whatever that becomes

for you, for me, for us.

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Make Them Feel it

“People will forget what you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” (Maya Angelou)

Truer words in speaking have never been said.





My wife drives a Lexus. I’m not saying that to brag, but to prove a point. When we were car shopping, we saw cheaper vehicles that perform almost just as well as the Lexus, had bells & whistles. We even saw some sleek exteriors as well. But we still settled on the Lexus.

And honestly, we bought it for the “L”. The little “L” piece of metal that adorns the trunk and centre of the steering wheel.

Why? Because we buy with emotion and justify with logic.

Sure we saw more reasonably priced cars. But Lexus equals a bit more luxury, a bit more status, and a bit more class than the other cars we saw. And that’s why we bought it. But we tell people, “we got a good deal”, or “it drives better than the other cars” or some other reason that, although it’s probably true, it’s not why we bought the car.

My wife loves the car because of how it makes her FEEL. She loves sitting in the heated leather seats. She loves the push button start and the low hum of the engine. She loves cruising on the highway and feeling the smooth power of the vehicle.

Emotion is why we buy.
Emotion is also why we listen.

When you speak, you had better evoke some emotion out of your audience. Otherwise you WILL be forgotten after your speech is over. Maybe even before.

Make your audience do one of three things, and they will remember you long after you have finished speaking. Make them do all 3, and you will be far ahead of most speakers.

1) Make them LAUGH

I start with this one due to personal reasons. I love giving inspirational speeches. I literally get goosebumps when I get to the main message within my speech. I remember going to a conference and a speaker taught a breakout session on how to speak. He said that he gave motivational speeches, and that humor “wasn’t his thing”. I remember nodding thinking, “Yup! That’s me! I’m a motivational guy, not a funny guy.”  I couldn’t have been more misguided. The truth is this – If eyes are the window to the soul, laughter is the gateway. Comedian Steve Harvey once said that his mentor Bill Cosby told him that when you get people to laugh, you have their undivided attention. And when you have someone’s undivided attention, you have the ability to affect them and make a positive impact on their lives. Once I learned that, I made it a point to uncover and add humor EVERY time I speak, regardless of topic. If you want to impact your audience,add excitement to every speech, and have audiences asking to hear more of you, you should do the same.

2) Make them THINK

When you speak, as Speaker Susan Lamb-Robinson says, you need to “Get under the skin, and get into the heart”. Sometimes you have to make people think about the pain they will have if they don’t follow the message that you are suggesting. Sometimes people won’t move until the pain of standing still hurts badly enough. So don’t be afraid to make your audience think. The emotion of Fear resulting from Inaction, can often be as powerful as the emotion of Happiness resulting from taking action. Make them Think, make them Feel, and they will Remember and Act.

3) Make them REFLECT

Reflection is an extension of thinking. When you find ways to make your audience not only think, but to reflect on their OWN reality or events from their past, then you’ve really got something! When people think about your story, you relate to them. But when they additionally REFLECT on their own stories in addition to yours, then you’ve moved them. They will be listening to you, while feeling the emotions related to their own lives. And that is a VERY powerful effect to have on someone. Get them to reflect, and they will be waiting for YOU to tell them what to do next.

People may forget what you say, but they will NEVER forget how you made them feel. And if you make them feel, they will also remember the most important things that you say.

This is a guest post from Kwesi Millington.

Kwesi is a public speaking, storytelling & confidence coach, teaching you to speak, share, serve and live with greater confidence. Check out his website at www.CommunicateToCreate.com and do watch his periscopes. He shares some very practical tips on speaking and story.

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Steal the Show: From Speeches to Job Interviews to Deal-Closing Pitches, How to Guarantee a Standing Ovation for All the Performances

steal_showA powerful way to master every performance in your career and life, from presentations and sales pitches to interviews and tough conversations, drawing on the methods the author applied as a working actor and has honed over a decade of coaching salespeople, marketers, managers, and business owners

Every day there are moments when you must persuade, inform, and motivate others effectively. Each of those moments requires you, in some way, to play a role, to heighten the impact of your words, and to manage your emotions and nerves. Every interaction is a performance, whether you’re speaking up in a meeting, pitching a client, or walking into a job interview.

In Steal the Show, New York Times best-selling author Michael Port draws on his experience as an actor and as a highly successful corporate speaker and trainer to teach readers how to make the most of every presentation and interaction. He demonstrates how the methods of successful actors can help you connect with, inspire, and persuade any audience. His key strategies for commanding an audience’s attention include developing a clear focus for every performance, making sure you engage with your listeners, and finding the best role for yourself in order to convey your message with maximum impact.

Michael Port is one of the most in-demand corporate speakers working today. His presentations are always powerful, engaging, and inspirational. And yes, audiences always give him a standing ovation.

An inspiring program full of essential advice for spotlight lovers and wallflowers alike that will teach readers how to bring any crowd to its feet.

You can buy the book from The Book Depository, or Amazon


[Quick public speaking tip] Who cares?

Who cares?

Do you?

Does your audience?


What about your speaking success? Do you care about that?

If you care about being successful, you are going to have to consider your audience. Success is all about them.

Consider your audience if you want to be successful.

Show them you care.

They have to feel that you have their best interests in mind, not just your own agenda.

While you are speaking to them, it has to be apparent that you care about them and what they want and need.

Otherwise you lose their trust, and the chance to entertain, inspire, persuade, compel.


Do you care that what you say aligns with your values and your truth …

about speaking with integrity?

Because if you aren’t in alignment with what you are communicating, saying, you will suffer, feel strange, removed, uncomfortable. You will have to fight it.

I spent years speaking successfully in competition, and yet feeling just that way, as though what I was doing was outside my reality somehow. It’s only since I stopped competing and started helping/inspiring/teaching with my speaking that I have realised the disconnect – I was speaking to win (success). Certainly the content was from within my own values and what I wanted to communicate, but there was always the dual interest, my audience and my success – and so the interest was divided between audience and success instead of focused on that audience.

It is sooooo much easier to show you care – genuinely.

And if you don’t, then I can only say find a way that you do, and use that as a frame for all that you present.

Use your speaking skills to create the connection with your audience and engage them. Use stories and humour. Interact with them. Call back to incidents or people they know. You have to have engagement, anyway, in order to begin the process of persuasion. And it will make it easier for you to feel in flow and connected …

and caring!


Public speaking education

How can we learn to become public speakers?

How do we learn public speaking?

Formal education will make a living; self-education will make you a fortune.

Formal education will make a living; self-education will make you a fortune.

Formal education.

I have post graduate qualifications. Most of the time that I was studying I had no idea what good it would do me, and at times I had no idea what I would do with it. And those two things can be very different!!

That was my formal education.

In my employment I was very grateful for those qualifications because they were recognised wherever I went and I was given employment and wages commensurate with their level.

They made me a living and a good one at that!


A lifelong pursuit, self-education! The older I get, the more intense it becomes. Perhaps I am now cramming!!

We learn by doing.

We learn to avoid pain.

We learn to pursue dreams and goals.

We learn to survive, sometimes.

We learn by research.

We learn by modelling.

We learn through our connection with other people.

And while that comes through formal education, it continues and is far more intense through self-education.

I suspect that in Jim Rohn’s time, there was also very little formal education in things like resilience, risk-taking, entrepreneurship, goal-setting.

I suspect also that in his time, formal education was undertaken under compulsion and the subjects studied, like mine, seemingly having very little correlation with the individual’s needs or innate abilities.

We learned a trade or a profession through formal education.

We learned to take that trade or profession out into the world through self education.

And the same can be said of public speaking.

We learn by doing.

We learn to avoid pain.

We learn to pursue dreams and goals.

We learn to survive, sometimes.

We learn by research.

We learn by modelling.

We learn through our connection with other people.

And while that comes through formal education, it continues and is far more intense through self-education.

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Herding as persuasion. What kind of shepherd are you? Or perhaps you are the sheep.

We fit in. We fit in with society, with our families, with our peers.

From a very young age, and from way back in the mists of history, we have been shepherded by our families, our tribe, our peers into conforming.

There was a time, and perhaps there are still times, when our very survival depended/depends on it.

So the urge to conform is strong in us,

especially in situations where we may not know what is appropriate, expected and safe.

I felt it when I attended a presentation early in my days in business.

He had already used various techniques that had me on edge, uncomfortable, aware of the not-so-subtle attempts at persuasion.

He had audience members becoming more and more excited.

“Raise your hand if …” and up went the hands.

Say “Yes” if you agree. And they were shouting “yes”.

“Who wants my freebie?” And before he had finished describing the thousands of dollars’ worth, two gentlemen were running to the stage for his USB.

“Everyone who belongs to my tribe run to the back of the room to sign up.”

And they did.

He had started with a room full of people. Many had left, but the numbers were still quite large.

I had no desire to buy.

I was very aware of what he was doing.

It was unsubtle and ugly,

and yet still I felt an outsider, uncomfortable, boring!

The power of belonging to the herd is incredibly strong.

And more recently, I attended a multi-level-marketing presentation.

I was late, partly because I was reluctant to attend, having agreed to make up numbers for a friend, and found myself sitting in a front row on a chair while about ten people sat on lounge chairs and padded chairs in an arc behind me.

And here again …

“Raise your hand if you want to live your dream.”

And the hands went up.

“Who’s excited by this offer?” And they very nearly shouted “Hallelujah!”

Then the presenter started inviting people to give testimonials and it became fairly obvious that there were only three of us who were not already members of the scheme.

Lovely to have so many people forming a community and supporting my friend who had hosted the event.

And while I felt uncomfortable sitting at the front, the herd force wasn’t as powerful as my first experience because I had gone in without any hopes.

At the earlier event I had been drawn by a particular suggestion in the marketing.

The herd instinct is a strong force for persuasion, especially in the unsure or vulnerable.


Have you been in an audience and felt the force of it?

Perhaps you have been a shepherd, using the force – hopefully with more subtlety and integrity than those I experienced!


Just for fun – or is it? How to sound smart in your TEDx Talk

There are such huge dangers in following a formula and sounding the same as everyone else!!

In a hilarious talk capping off a day of new ideas at TEDxNewYork, professional funny person Will Stephen shows foolproof presentation skills to make you sound brilliant — even if you are literally saying nothing. (Full disclosure: This talk is brought to you by two TED staffers, who have watched a LOT of TED Talks.)

Try watching it a second time with the sound off!!