Archives For speak

speak to sell your bookIf you’ve published a book, you already know the sad truth: it’s entirely up to you to promote it.

Whether you’ve published your book yourself or had a mainstream publishing company put it out, you—and you alone—are responsible for marketing and promoting it.

There are ways to make people aware of your book, to make them want it, refer it to others, and buy it. Here are a few of the most effective strategies:

  • Create a website for your book
  • Write a blog and post material from you book on it
  • Be a guest columnist on other people’s blogs
  • Participate in online communities
  • Use social networking tools—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
  • Send out an email newsletter
  • Create and share podcasts and videos
  • Get articles (with a byline that mentions your book) published in print or online
  • Host webinars and teleseminars
  • Give speeches and presentations

The best strategy is, of course, to use as many different strategies as possible.

I’m a big fan of giving speeches to promote a book.

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Stories of Loss and HardshipStorytelling is one of the most effective tools in a speaker’s toolbox.

Without a story, a speech never takes flight. Or, to mix metaphors, it never takes root in the hearts and minds of your audience.

There are, of course, many types of stories you can tell.

My least favorite type of story to tell in a speech is the fable. You know the type: generic teaching stories about archetypal (fictional, one-dimensional) characters that have an obvious moral.

I find that stories and anecdotes from history are extremely effective, as long as they’re new to the audience and spot-on relevant to the audience. (I recently heard a story about the Wright brothers and Henry Ford, that I’m itching to work into a speech.)

I’m particularly partial to personal stories. They’re unique: the audience won’t have heard them before, unless they’ve heard them from you. And they forge a connection between you and the audience.

In the past couple of years I’ve had an easier job getting my clients — mostly business leaders — to incorporate personal stories into their speeches.

And the most powerful, the most moving stories they tell are not their success stories (“I was down. I worked hard. I succeeded.”), but their stories of struggle, loss, and failure.

Success stories serve an important function in a speech, but they have to be used judiciously, sparingly. If you only talk about your accomplishments, you risk sounding like a narcissist. You risk distancing yourself from your audience by setting yourself up on a pedestal.

Telling people about your hard times, your doubts, your regrets, the wrong turns you’ve taken, the bumps and bruises and (sometimes) the beatings you’ve survived…and the lessons you’ve learned from them…can be a powerful teaching tool.

Notice I said, “can be.” Wrongly told or told for the wrong reason a personal story of hardship can be disastrous.

Here’s how to use such a story well…

1. Create some emotional distance from the story.

Be sure that you’ve worked through the pain and come to some sort of peace before telling your story. Don’t use speaking as therapy. It’s okay — preferable, really — to let your emotions show, but don’t let them overwhelm you. You don’t want to make the audience feel uncomfortable. And you don’t want them to pity you.

2. Make your personal story a universal story.

The only reason to tell a personal story is to illuminate something deeply personal and significant in your audience. The reaction you want from them is, “I’ve been there too. He/she could be talking about me.” It’s not about you. It’s about them.

3. As with any story you tell in a speech, make sure its take-away truth ties directly into the point you’re making.

Any story you tell must advance the goal of your speech. (Of course, the same thing can be said of any point you make in your speech or any quotation you cite or any piece of information you share.)


Do you tell personal stories in your speeches? If so, what works for you?

We often talk about motivation and inspiration as if they’re they same thing. But they’re not.

What Is Motivation?

Motivation is about moving people to take action if not immediately, then within the very near future.

It heightens people’s emotions — especially their hope, desire, enthusiasm — urging them to act in a way that accomplishes a specific goal.

And it holds out the offer of a reward, a reason or a motivation for people to act.

Before a big game or during halftime, coaches motivate their teams to go out and do their best. What’s the goal? Win the game. What’s the reward? The pride of victory and of being a champion.

There’s a wonderful example of a military leader motivating his troops before battle from the movie Patton.

The speech as it’s delivered by George C. Scott is almost word for word the same speech that General Patton used to give the day before sending his troops to fight.

What does he want from his troops? To attack, never to stop, never to retreat, and most of all to kill the enemy. What reward does he offer? It’s better to kill them than to be killed by them.

So motivation involves moving people to take immediate action to accomplish a short-term goal. It does so by appealing to their emotions and by offering them some sort of reward or recompense.

By necessity, you have to keep motivating people over and over again. It doesn’t last, but as Zig Ziglar was fond of pointing out, neither does bathing, and that doesn’t stop you from bathing.

What is Inspiration?

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Masterful Speaker Create Images In Audience's MindsMasterful speakers create images in their audience’s minds, because long after people have forgotten everything else, they’ll remember the images.

Think of Churchill’s evocation of the “Iron Curtain” or Herbert Hoover’s classic campaign slogan “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.”

You don’t have to project images on a screen when you give a speech or presentation to create images in your audience’s minds.

You can engage an audience’s imaginations in a speech in at least four ways.

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As the author of Real Leader’s Don’t Do PowerPoint (Crown Business), I am not suggesting that future Presidents should use PowerPoint in their State of the Union Addresses (SOTUs). I cringe at the thought. But recent developments and trends make me think that it will happen sooner or later.

I make that prediction based on my belief that the dominant style of public speaking has dramatically changed over the last fifty or sixty years, becoming increasingly casual.

The Reign of Oratory

John Kennedy SpeaksFor the longest time (over two millennium) public discourse was ruled by oratory, a formal style of speaking marked by an elegance of expression, a concern with lofty ideals and topics of great import, and dramatic delivery.

Oratory was a mainstay in ancient Greece. Philosophers and statesmen alike studied and practiced it. Romans continued to refine it and define its rules.

In the United States oratory held sway through the 1960’s. There are many examples or an oratorical style of speaking, including but not limited to:

There are fewer examples of oratory to be found through the next two decades.

By the 1980’s oratory was already being replaced by a plainer, simpler style of speaking.

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Leaders SpeakWhy do Leaders Speak?

1. Leaders speak to influence and inspire audiences.
Leaders aren’t primarily concerned with communicating information. They speak to promote a vision, a direction, or a passion. They want to change not just what people know, but how people think and feel and act.

2. Leaders speak when a lot is at stake.
In times of crisis, change, or opportunity — when expectations are high and the consequences may be momentous — people turn to leaders for words of insight, reassurance, or direction. Leaders speak to make a difference, and unsettled times are when their words can have the greatest impact.

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As I read Mark Schaefer’s infographic about blogging, I found myself thinking how well they apply to giving a speech. 

For the most part, simply change “readers” to “audience,” “blog” to “speech,” and “blogging” to “speaking,” and, voila, you have 10 Maxims for Successful Speaking.

Maxim 9 needs to be tweaked a bit more: “Build rapport. The most effective way to connect with an audience is to know and care about their problems, challenges, hopes, and dreams.”


10 Maxims of Successful Blogging: Infographic Edition
Courtesy of: {grow}

Remember: Whenever you say something is like something else (creating a blog is like giving a speech), you always have to be mindful of how they are unlike.

I personally like all the maxims, but as a speaker I particularly like Number 8: “Don’t waste people’s time.” How about you?

Man Speaking SpontaneouslySpeaking extemporaneously, impromptu, or ad-lib requires preparation.

The most basic, inviolable rule of public speaking is never to speak without being prepared. That leaves you with only two options: 1) Avoid any gathering where you could even conceivably be asked too speak, of 2) figure out how to prepare for the unexpected.

Mark Twain, who in his day was as admired for his speaking as he was for his writing, observed that “it takes three weeks to prepare a good ad-lib speech.”

Here are some suggestions for preparing yourself for those situations when you’re pressed into “saying a few words” without being given time to prepare:

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Only Connect!

Christopher Witt —  June 25, 2013

Only Connect!Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon.
Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted,
And human love will be seen at its height.
Live in fragments no longer.
Only connect…
–E.M. Forster, Howards End


A speech is all about making connections.

What you talk about (your topic), how you understand it (your frame), what you say about it (your message), how you say it (your delivery) changes, of course.

There are no end of different things you can speak about.

But whatever you are speaking about, a speech is about making connections.

It’s about connecting…

  • Data and information to form a coherent idea
  • Disparate and mutually contradictory ideas to create a new synthesis
  • The known with the new
  • People’s heads (understanding and imagination), hearts (emotions and values), hands (actions and behavior)
  • Individuals with each other
  • Speaker and audience

Making connections is a way of combatting the twin evils of our time: ignorance (and the prejudice and intolerance that it breeds) and loneliness.

There’s more happening in a speech than you think. So never undervalue what you might accomplish when you speak.

Last week I attended a funeral for my nephew, a sweet kid who died tragically and way before his time. Contrary to my expectations, I found the funeral and the rites surrounding it a moving and powerful source of comfort.

Two friends of my nephew shared reminiscences and a priest gave the eulogy. They did a fine job, which got me to thinking about eulogies and what they can teach us about speaking in general.

Here are five elements or characteristics of a eulogy that apply to speeches in general.

  1. Intention
    When giving a eulogy, what matters most is your intention. Your aim is, or should be, to offer comfort. How you comfort those who grieve will differ, of course, depending on the person who has died, the circumstances, the people left behind, and your own gifts, relationship, abilities. But as long as you sincerely intend to provide comfort, you’re on the right track. Your intention also matters in every other speech you give. Your aim will differ from speech to speech, but you always need to be clear about what it is. And you audience needs to know what it is. Why are you speaking to them? Why do you care? Why should they care?
  2. Stories
    You can’t give a eulogy without telling stories. You just can’t. You are, in essence, telling the story of the person’s life or, at least, telling a story of the person’ life and imbuing it with meaning. Likewise, I don’t see how you can give any kind of speech without telling a story, at least one. (See How to Tell a Story.)
  3. Emotions
    At a funeral people’s emotions, which may span the whole gamut, are right up front and central. And it’s easy for the eulogist to connect in a powerful way with the audience. It’s not so easy to do that in other speeches, especially in the corporate arena where people are more guarded. But you still have to engage people’s emotions if you want to affect them. (As a verb, affect means, “have an effect on; make a difference to.” As a noun, affect means, “emotion or desire, esp. as influencing behavior or action.”)
  4. Community
    At a funeral, you’re not just speaking to individuals. You’re speaking to a community, to people who share a common bond, to family, friends, colleagues. In other speeches, you will have a greater impact if you think of gathering the individuals who are assembled into an assembly, a community of people who have something in common — a shared concern, a joint venture, similar values. A good speaker addresses each person as a unique individual and, at the same time, forges a sense of commonality among the audience as a whole.
  5. Humility
    If you’ve ever spoken at a funeral, you know how daunting of a task it can be. How can you possibly do justice to the person, those who mourn, and the occasion? You can’t. And that’s okay. You do what you can, as best you can. And you do your best to keep your ego out of the way. You’re there to comfort others — that’s your intention, right? — not to call attention to yourself. The same is true of giving a speech. When you let your ego get in the way, you’ll trip yourself up. But if you humbly do the best you can, you’ll do better than you expect.

What do you think? What lessons from eulogies can you apply to speeches in general?

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