Posts tagged Organization
Top 10 Reasons You Need a Speech Coach
Me, Nancy Hardcastle, hosting an open mic.

Me, Nancy Hardcastle, hosting an open mic.

You have passion, you have expertise and you have experience - why whould you hire a speech coach?  I’ve got ten wonderful reasons for you, but they all boil down to this - if you hope to be the kind of speaker that makes your audience want to cry and cheer and congratulate you all at the same time, you can!  It’s just going to be nearly impossible to do it by yourself. To find out why, let the countdown begin....

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10.  Practicing in front of your best friend (or significant other, grandmother, etc.) will only get you so far.

Generally speaking, practicing in front of anybody is helpful, but if you’re expecting your friends or family to be able to give you the constructive criticism that you need and help you fix the problems they pointed out, that’s not realistic.  It’s kind of like expecting your gardener to be able to look at your hair, give you style feedback, and also trim it up real quick.  Besides that, those loved ones of yours are probably gonna go easy on you because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.

9. While watching yourself on video is both brave and excruciating, it won’t help you know if you’re explaining your topic clearly.

You know how when you get a “For Dummies” book, you feel like an even dumber dummy because you can’t understand it?  The problem is that these writers are so immersed in their field that they can’t imagine what starting from zero really looks like.  In the same way, it’s likely that you’re so familiar with your material that you don’t realize all the assumptions you’re making about what your audience does and doesn’t know.  In their book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath call this the “Curse of Knowledge.” They write:

Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listerners’ state of mind.

To overcome this “curse” and to make sure you’re making yourself understood, you need someone else to give you feedback. (And if you’re serious about creating radical change, I highly recommend this book.)

You have passion, you have expertise and you have experience - why should you hire a speech coach? I’ve got ten wonderful reasons for you, but they all boil down to this - if you hope to be the kind of speaker that makes your audience want to cry and cheer and congratulate you all at the same time, you can. It’s just going to be nearly impossible to do it by yourself. Keep reading to find out why. #Powerpoint #keynote #speechcoach #ipresentation

8. Even if you’re a “natural” on stage, everyone needs input on delivery.  

There’s a popular misconception that speech coaches want to turn you into something that you’re not, including forcing you to use weird, awkward gestures that make people embarrassed for you.  That’s not the kind of delivery input I mean.

I’m talking about working on the deliberate use of elements such as pauses, eye contact and body language to strengthen the overall impact of your presentation.  You’ll still be 100% “you” - you’ll just be the enhanced version best suited for public speaking.

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7.  You need targeted practice.  

A  good coach will make you practice in ways that not only challenge you, but prepare you for all manner of catastrophes, including but certainly not limited to crashed computers, lost files, broken glasses and wardrobe malfunctions.  You’ll prepare for normal situations as well, because sometimes things actually do go as planned.

6.  Moving from “great idea” to “great speech” can be very challenging if you don’t have extensive experience as a speaker and/or writer.  

Knowing how to develop your ideas in a way that doesn’t bore everyone to tears is a learned skill.  So is crafting a compelling story that will both engage and move your audience toward the desired outcome.  You need these skills and more to create powerful content.

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5.  You probably forgot about your audience.

It’s easy to forget that you aren’t the most important element of your presentation - the audience is.  Think about it - without them, where would you be? So before you ever step on stage, you’ll need to make sure you’re considering your audience and the specifics of your presentation that are going to speak to them as individuals (no pun intended).

4.  Persuading an audience requires a strategy.

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This strategy will include several tactics.  You can probably find some good suggestions on how to be persuasive, and perhaps even come up with a decent strategy on your own.  But if this is an important talk and the stakes are high, do you really want to run the risk of not being as persuasive as you could be?  I mean, I like to bake, but if one of my kids decides to get married, we’ll be hiring a professional. Just sayin’.

3.  It’s likely that you haven’t organized your speech in the most effective way possible.

If you’re starting by introducing yourself and explaining what you and/or your organization does, I rest my case.  That’s not a good way to start. Yes, that introduction and explanation belongs somewhere...just not in your opening remarks.  Good organization helps your audience focus on the material because you 1) make it clear from the beginning where you’re taking them 2) help them navigate along the way  3) demonstrate from the get-go that it’s gonna to be a helluva ride.

2.  Your slides could be better.

Building a PowerPoint slide deck (or Prezi, Keynote, etc.) includes so many important components that I’ve written a  30+ page slide guide! Fortunately, if you’ve been working hard on deleting unnecessary slides, editing down long bullet pointed lists and finding compelling images, you’re likely well ahead of the game.  

Nevertheless, you need an objective eye to tell you what’s confusing, redundant, and (hopefully not, but quite possibly) just plain ugly.  It's like hiring an editor.  No writer worth their salt would consider putting something in print without having an editor look over it first.

And finally....


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1.  You’re boring.

Okay, okay, you’re probably not boring the whole time.  But I would bet that at least part of your presentation is boring.  Why? Because most talks are. And most speakers do what everyone else does.  Unfortunately, passion, expertise and experience are not enough to overcome this problem.  You’ve got to do something different!

Lucky for you, there’s hope.

Obviously, you can hire me. I’d love nothing more than to help you blow your audience out of the water with an amazing presentation.  It’s the best part of my job. And if you can’t hire me because, I don’t know, you don’t have an internet connection, you can start by addressing the ten issues above, and you’ll be well on your way.

And just one more thing...if you’re afraid of harsh criticism, I get it.  I hate mean. That’s why I work extra hard at helping you relax and find your groove.  In fact, it’s one of my specialties.

I will definitely point out where you need to improve, and show you how.  But I’ll also tell you all the things you’re doing well, and I’ll encourage you along the way.  

So go here, and let’s get started!  Your audience will thank you for it.

Follow These Six Steps to Organize Your Presentation

If you struggle with knowing where to put what in your presentations, this post is for you!  Today we'll be focusing on the "body" of your speech - the main part between your introduction and your conclusion.    I’m going to show you how to go from one big list of ideas to a presentation that's organized clearly and logically .  Let’s get started!

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For you visual people, the goal  is to take you and your presentation ideas from the hopeless piles on the left to the beautiful ducks in a row on the right.

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Step #1 -  Brainstorm.

The initial brainstorm.

The initial brainstorm.

Aka, the brain dump. Make a list of every idea that you have about your topic.

It doesn’t need to be numbered, and it doesn’t need to be written in complete sentences.   If you’re not sure about an idea, put it down anyway. Now is not the time for editing; now is the time for dumping.  I suggest using a word processing program (as opposed to a handwritten list) because you’ll be moving your ideas around later on.

I’ve included an example of this whole process in the dark blue boxes that follow using a hypothetical presentation about forgiveness (including fictitious names and examples to protect the guilty, lol).  Here you can see my initial brainstorm.



Step #2 - Group Similar Items

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Grouping items and naming each group.

Grouping items and naming each group.

Go through your list and group items that seem to go together and/or address more or less the same aspect of your topic.  

If you’re not sure if an item is in the right place, put a question mark next to it. I added a few notes as I went along to help me clarify the ideas.  Now name each group, identifying what it’s generally about.  See the example to the right for how this looks with my list.

Step #3 - Clarify Your Core Message

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Now that you’ve listed all of your ideas and grouped them, it’s easier to think about what you want your main message to be.  Of course, you may have known that from the start, but let’s say that you didn’t. Imagine that as I look at my groupings, I keep thinking about how important forgiveness is for your health, both mental and emotional.  Perhaps to me, that’s the most important part of the whole list. So I decide that my core message (not to be confused with the title of my speech) is going to be “Forgiveness is essential for good mental and emotional health.”

I know, that sounds kind of dry.  Don’t worry - we can always work on eloquence later.  Right now we are just trying to get organized.

But what if, as you look at these groups, you see it differently, and you think that the most important idea is about forgiveness being an ongoing process? That works too!  Your core message could be something like “How to Move Through the Process of Forgiveness.”

I’m sure you could come up with other core messages for this same material - it all depends on what’s important to you.  Go ahead and write your core message at the top of your list now.

Stating your core message at the top.

Stating your core message at the top.

Step #4 - Edit Your Supporting Points

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Think of your core message as bread, and your supporting points as the ingredients.  Flour is going to move you closer toward bread. So is a liquid, like water or milk, as is a little salt.  Now, you might really like mango jam. In fact, it might be your favorite food in the whole world. But you don’t want to put mango jam in, because jam is not going to get you to bread.  In fact, jam will be weird.

With that in mind, read your core message again.  Now look through all of your supporting points. Does every single one somehow support, or “go with” your core message?  Looking at my list,  in my first group, although “feeling better” doesn’t speak to the process, my experience of forgiving Jude was indeed a process, so I decide to keep this point.  But the point about my sisters doesn’t fit here, even though I’ve worked on/around this issue for a long time, because it’s not about the process of me forgiving them. So I’m going to cut that.

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In group #2,  my story of forgiving Linda is a great example of the process when it’s hard, so I'll keep that.    And, I love my wagon story - it’s thrilling and gross and I could have died! (Remember folks, fictitious :) .  But alas, it’s jam - it’s not really about the process of forgiving my brother Craig at all - it's really much more about the accident. So I’m gonna cut that, too.

In group #3, everything fits, so I’m going to leave it as is.

Editing your points.

Editing your points.

#4.  . . hmmm. This doesn’t seem to be about a process at all. It’s a great point.  But it really doesn’t get me closer to my core message,  which is: “How to Move Through the Process of Forgiveness.”  Sadly, it is jam, too, so I have to cut that whole section.  (It happens.)

Now what about those last two lines with the question marks?  I think that  “it's hard to love people that you haven't forgiven them” is part of good emotional health, which I just cut, so it’s gotta go.  And the last one about the bad teaching - it could go in #2, but when I think about it now, it feels negative and unhelpful, so I’m going to cut it as well.  So what you see to the right  is what I have after my edits.

Step #5 - Put everything in order.

I’m down to three main points.  Now I need to think about the order.  It makes more sense to me to talk about the different approaches first, and then talk about what moving through looks like after that.  So I decide to rearrange my points. Here again, you might prefer a different order. The last list below is my final order.

Keep in mind that in a straightforward “how to” presentation like this one, whatever order increases clarity and understanding is fine. However, in speeches where you need to persuade your audience, you’ll want to be much more strategic about your order, aka structure. Go here for an example of a speech structure that works well in this case. Or go here for an article that describes many different structures.

Ordering your points.

Ordering your points.

Step #6 - Check for Balance

It's time to make sure that you are explaining each point sufficiently.  To me, #2 feels a little thin, so I might add another concrete example that looks different from the Jude story but that still shows the process.  I’d also probably add some kind of graphic that demonstrates having to revisit particular issues with the same person.

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Finishing up...

If you've gotten this far, you've completed the lion's share of the organizational work!  Now all you have to do is add an introduction (guided by the same principal of “does it get me to bread?”), transitions and a conclusion, and you’ll have the basic content of your speech. 

From there you’ll want to work on the details of all of your supporting points. You may also want to change the order of some of those points within each main point, which is fine.

With practice, this process will become easier and easier.  If you’re struggling right now with the organization of a particular presentation, go here to get some help.  It’s what I do. :)