How I Learnt My Most Valuable Public Speaking Lessons

How I Learnt My Most Valuable Public Speaking Lessons

During my years as a member of Toastmasters International I reached a point where I needed a new challenge. That challenge became the International Speech Competition which involves making a seven-minute inspirational speech and proceeds through six stages with the final being the World Championship of Public Speaking.

My plan (ie. fantasy) was much the same as many of the 30 000 or so people who enter each year – become World Champion and find fame and fortune as a professional speaker. I didn’t become World Champion but what I learned in the process of trying has been invaluable.

Here are a few of those lessons – the big one is at the end:

1. I didn’t know what real fear of public speaking was before

Part of the reason many people have a fear of public speaking is they are aware that to some extent they are being judged by the audience. However for the most part audiences are looking for good points, not things to critique.

In a competition, there is no denying the confronting reality that the reason for you being there is to be judged on your performance. Not only by the official judges, but by everyone in the room.

The gut wrenching fear I felt at times was sickening but the feeling of achievement and confidence that came from getting through it was even more powerful and was one of the best personal growth experiences I could have had.

Want to conquer a fear of something? The only real way is to do that thing that you fear.

2. Make what you say count

When you have half an hour to do a presentation or speech you can include a substantial amount of content – often way more than is needed. Trying to convey an inspirational message in just seven minutes means you have to learn to cull everything but the most relevant material and make that limited material have the most impact possible.

3. Stories rule.

The best way to do the above is with a great story.

4. You can rehearse too much

I am a firm believer in practising before a big speech or presentation. However there were times before competitions when I rehearsed so much that I had every word memorised and every single gesture and movement choreographed.

This actually raises one of the conflicts I have with what is advocated by some people in Toastmasters. Being ‘staged’ to this level was at times a very successful strategy for meeting the judging criteria in competitions as well as getting good evaluations for speeches in regular club meetings. However sometimes it comes across more like really bad acting than speaking. Be careful with this – acting and speaking are different things.

5. Most Importantly – What it really takes to be a ‘winner’ with your audience

In my most successful shot at the competition, I reached the stage where I was one win away from heading off to the USA to compete in the semi-finals.

That day I came up against the gentleman who would later go on to become the World Champion of Public Speaking that year. It was a day that I got ‘schooled’ big time in the art of competitive speaking. His speech was well written, brilliantly delivered, thoroughly entertaining, and deserving of sending him on to the next stage.

Myself, having invested very heavily emotionally in the experience, all I wanted to do in the break afterwards was retreat to some privacy and have some time for personal reflection. However, I couldn’t because of a constant flow of people coming up to tell me that even though I didn’t win, they enjoyed my speech the most out of the six contenders.

The message of my speech that day was not to let the things that keep us busy crowd out the most important things in our lives. I told a story about how I had been doing exactly that and as a result, I was missing out on my young daughter’s childhood. It resonated with a lot of people in the audience and a couple of them actually had tears in their eyes afterward when they thanked me for telling the story.

It wasn’t until I was tackling the 8-hour drive home the next day and got to thinking about what some of these people had said, that I fully appreciated the real lesson I had learned from the experience…

Fulfilling the judging criteria for a competition is one thing, but it’s how you make people feel that ultimately determines your value as a speaker.

Even well over a year later, people who were in the audience that day were stilling telling me how that speech had impacted them.

One day I will return to Toastmasters as I have unfinished business with that competition. But in the meantime, I know that saying something that matters is way more important than a perfectly polished performance.

David Wise

David Wise

Owner, Wise Words Communications

 

Company Pages

Contact David Wise

0427 360 293
P.O Box 8184 Bargara QLD 4670
david@wisewordscomms.com.au

 

Personal Social Accounts

The Best Customer Loyalty Program In The World

The Best Customer Loyalty Program In The World

I have managed to build up a nice collection of loyalty cards from a variety of retailers, coffee shops and others. All probably seemed like a good idea when I took them, but in reality I just don’t follow through with them. They end up floating around in the glove box, bedside drawer, or sitting at the bottom of my office tray.

I am willing to bet that I’m not alone and many of you have a dozen or so of these loyalty cards stashed away somewhere that have never again seen the light of day.

If that’s the reality, then why do so many businesses turn to these programs in an effort to gain loyalty from their customers?

Why do they do it even though they know their “Get Every 5th Coffee FREE” card will probably end up at the bottom of a drawer along with a few pocketfuls of loose change and some odd socks?

Founder of SageBerry Consulting and former VP of Marketing at Neiman Marcus, Stephen P. Dennis writes in an article “The World’s Best Loyalty Program”, that many of these loyalty programs are simply a front for collecting customer data.

That’s quite likely true for some of the big corporate rewards programs, but what about the small businesses that do it?

In the article, Dennis cites another reason that these programs have become popular which probably answers that question. They are “me-too efforts that are knee jerk reactions to the competition which end up raising the cost of doing business without engendering true loyalty”.

So, if bribery doesn’t work, then what does?

Since I am a big fan of coffee let’s stick with that example. If you run a coffee shop, here are some ideas that would make me love to get my coffee from you on a regular basis without you having to give me every 5th one free:

  • Serve great tasting coffee and food in a timely fashion.
  • Provide a table that allows enough personal space to relax and enjoy my coffee and food and have a private conversation if I am with someone.
  • Have your staff provide their service with a warm and friendly demeanour.
  • Serve my coffee with 100% of it still in the cup and not running down the sides into the saucer.
  • If my order comes to less than $10 and I don’t happen to have any cash on me, don’t force me to buy something I don’t want in order to use your EFTPOS machine.

Just a few ideas there, but what is the common thread?

If you provide an experience to your customers that they can’t get anywhere else, they will keep coming back. In the example above the suggestions would seem like basic things but are apparently very hard for some to do. The same can be said for many other types business as well. They are focused on all manner of gimmicks and so-called ‘innovations’ but fail time after time to do basic things properly.

As Dennis points out in his article, there are many reputable brands that have built incredible loyalty from consumers without any type of loyalty or rewards program because their value proposition is on the mark, and they just get things right consistently.

The reality is if I have an average or bad experience, it won’t matter to me in the slightest if I get every 5th coffee free or 10% off my next purchase. There’s no value in it and it will actually seem like hard work to get it.

On the other hand, if I know it’s going to be an awesome experience when I come in to your place then it won’t matter to me whether I get every fifth coffee free or a 10% discount. The loyalty program becomes irrelevant.

The best customer loyalty program in the world is having systems and a culture that ensure you consistently meet and exceed your customers’ expectations.

 

 
David Wise

David Wise

Owner, Wise Words Communications

 

Get some positive words and communication tips straight to your inbox. 

Company Pages

Contact David Wise

0427 360 293
P.O Box 8184 Bargara QLD 4670
david@wisewordscomms.com.au

 

Personal Social Accounts

How To Make Your PowerPoint Slides Objects Of Beauty Instead Of Despair

How To Make Your PowerPoint Slides Objects Of Beauty Instead Of Despair

Boring business presentations are not hard to come by. That’s because most go to the pack the second the would-be presenter turns on their computer and starts writing their presentation directly onto PowerPoint slides (or insert your favourite slide weapon here). They don’t question what they are doing or why they are doing it.

So, why are they doing it?

There are three main reasons:

1. Everyone else does it.

PowerPoint is now so overused that it has become embedded in the culture of business that if you are doing a presentation you must have slides.

2. They use the slides as a guide for their presentation.

However stacks of bullet points or paragraphs of text on a slide serve only one person and that is the presenter themselves. As for the rest of us in the audience, if you stop reading your slides and talk to us, we’ll be much better off thanks.

3. They think it makes their presentation more engaging.

Well…PowerPoint and similar tools certainly can make presentations more engaging, but they usually don’t. That’s because of the way they are used – see point 2. Instead of using their slides for rich content that supports what they are saying, most presenters use them for text simply to keep track of what they are saying leaving their audience in despair and ready to clutch onto anything remotely more interesting.

Want to really connect with your audience?

Think of someone making a movie. The director doesn’t shoot the movie at the same time as the script writers are writing. The story comes first and then the visual and sound elements are added to bring the story to life.

So write your presentation first and ensure that it has a sound structure, then start thinking about what other elements you need to add impact to what you are saying. Sometimes slides will do that job, sometimes they won’t. Maybe some other prop, example, or demonstration will serve the purpose a lot better. Just don’t assume you have to do slides just because everyone else does.

David Wise

David Wise

Owner, Wise Words Communications

 

Get some positive words and communication tips straight to your inbox. 

Company Pages

Contact David Wise

0427 360 293
P.O Box 8184 Bargara QLD 4670
david@wisewordscomms.com.au

 

Personal Social Accounts

Beware The Danger Of Comparing Your Life To Others

Beware The Danger Of Comparing Your Life To Others

“One reason we struggle with insecurity: we’re comparing our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.”

– Steven Furtick  

Like a lot of you, when I look at some other people’s lives they really seem to have it together and have everything going for them and, even if just for a fleeting moment, I often feel inadequate in comparison.

But then occasionally you get a glimpse below the surface and realise that  not everything is as perfect as it seems. They are just like us or perhaps even more inadequate, insecure, or incapable.

In a personal sense, they probably struggle with the same issues we do with their relationships and families. In a business sense, people have a tendency to only share their successes and achievements because they perceive that revealing their weaknesses will reduce their credibility.

So when you’re feeling that way and starting to doubt yourself, remember that you are probably just seeing the best bits of other people’s lives. Their daily grind is most likely just the same as, or even harder, than yours.

 
 
David Wise

David Wise

Owner, Wise Words Communications

 

Get some positive words and communication tips straight to your inbox. 

Company Pages

Contact David Wise

0427 360 293
P.O Box 8184 Bargara QLD 4670
david@wisewordscomms.com.au

 

Personal Social Accounts

The Art of Authentic Communication (Be The Glass Goblet)

The Art of Authentic Communication (Be The Glass Goblet)

The Art Of Authentic Communication (Be The Glass Goblet)

“You have two goblets before you. One is of solid gold, wrought in the most exquisite patterns. The other is of crystal-clear glass, thin as a bubble, and as transparent. Pour and drink; and according to your choice of goblet, I shall know whether or not you are a connoisseur of wine. For if you have no feelings about wine one way or the other, you will want the sensation of drinking the stuff out of a vessel that may have cost thousands of pounds; but if you are a member of that vanishing tribe, the amateurs of fine vintages, you will choose the crystal, because everything about it is calculated to reveal rather than to hide the beautiful thing which it was meant to contain.”

Back in 1932 a lady named Beatrice Warde used that metaphor in a speech to the British Typographers Guild. The speech itself debated whether design should embellish or elaborate the printed word. Over 80 years later the same metaphor can still be applied to modern forms of business communication.

These days the ’embellishments’ that business communicators use range from a tidal wave of information to overt creativity. Some modern day embellishments include:

  • Information overload designed to give the impression of knowledge.
  • The website (or other advertising) that tries too hard to be creative and ends up drowning out the message.
  • Social media gimmicks that serve no purpose other than to falsely inflate statistics.
  • Unnecessarily complicated language and buzzwords used in attempt to appear intelligent.

All of these things generally fail. Why? Because people are looking for genuine connection. They want to know what you think, what you know that affects them, and how you feel about the subject at hand – and they want it in a way they can understand.

Be more like the ‘glass goblet’ that reveals what’s inside and less like the bright shiny object that lacks real substance.

 

David Wise

David Wise

Owner, Wise Words Communications

 

Get some positive words and communication tips straight to your inbox. 

Company Pages

Contact David Wise

0427 360 293
P.O Box 8184 Bargara QLD 4670
david@wisewordscomms.com.au

 

Personal Social Accounts