Do you know what to do in these 3 scary question and answer situations?

Do you know what to do in these 3 scary question and answer situations?

Have you ever had the following thoughts when preparing for the question and answer session of a talk?

“I’ll look like a fool if I don’t know the answer to a question.”

“How will I fill the awkward silence if no one asks anything?”

“What if I can’t get to every question in the room? People will think I’m a jerk if I don’t take their questions.”

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Wedding Toast Tips

7 Wedding Toast Brainstorming Prompts

“I just don’t know where to start.”

That’s the most common phrase I hear from my clients when they are trying to write a wedding toast. The best place to start is by telling stories that show what a great person the bride or groom is and what he or she means to you. Plus, some stories will naturally be funny or sentimental. You don’t need to worry about memorizing groan-worthy one-liners.
When you sit down to write your toast, use the following prompts to generate stories that you can tell. You might not have something for each one, but go with the ones that seem the easiest. Then tell those stories as part of your toast.

1.    One moment when he/she most impressed me was when…
2.    He/she was really there for me when…
3.    My favorite memory of him/her was when…
4.    When I first met him/her…
5.    I am grateful that he/she is in my life because one time…
6.    He/she got me out of a tough situation when…
7.    I can never forget the time when he/she…

Need help with your next wedding toast or other speech?

rome cicero

One simple tip from Cicero

Public speaking hasn’t changed much since Cicero wrote down the foundations of public speaking a long time ago.

One point he makes is that the tense in which you speak is determined by the purpose of the speech (or that portion of it).

If you are memorializing an event, speak in the past tense to describe the events.
If you are informing your audience, speak in the present tense to describe how things are currently.
If you are motivating your audience, speak in the future tense to draw a picture of what could be for your audience.

These aren’t fast and hard rules. Often, motivational speeches will look to the past to describe events that would motivate people to act. You’ll see this very often with politicians when they invoke past laws or leaders of their respective parties.

As a side note, while each speech will have an overriding purpose, there are times within it where each section will have a different purpose. You might be asked to give a status report, which seems like it’s nothing more than presenting information on the current state of the project. However, you will still need to recall past events and then paint a picture of the future of the project.

The bottom line?

Always consider the purpose of your speech (and each part within it) to decide which tense you’ll use when talking about that section.

Need help with your next speech? Contact me.

question and answer tips

Top 10 Dos and Don’ts For Your Next Question and Answer Session

Question and answer sessions can be the toughest part of any speech or keynote. Here are 10 tips for what to do and not do.

Top 10 Dos:
1. Treat your answer like a mini-speech:Keep your manner of presenting consistent with the rest of your speech. When you answer the audience member, direct your answer towards the whole crowd–make eye contact with them and move around the stage just like you would during your speech.
2. Call on many parts of the room:When looking for hands, look around the entire crowd. Many speakers get tunnel vision and only focus on one area of the audience. Make a conscious effort to look to the back, left, right, and center.
3. Admit when you don’t know: Bluffing is easy to detect. A simple response such as, “I don’t know, let me research that for you,” works every time.
4. Actually follow up: Create a “follow-up” sheet that tracks an audience member’s info that he or she can give you after you’re done.
5. Leave enough time: Plan to end with enough time for Question and Answer. If you run out of time for questions, have audience members write down their questions and then respond over email.
6. Repeat the question to make sure you heard it correctly and the audience did, too. The acoustics in a room can be weird and if you misheard the question then the answer will serve no one.
7. Ask the person if your answer was successful. If not, add on or follow up afterwards
8. Close out after your Q and A: You get the last word regardless of what anyone else says. Have a closing for your speech as the last part of the Q&A.
9. Take questions throughout your speech: If your talk will go for more than 20 minutes, consider having stopping points throughout your talk for Q and A sections or allowing audience members to ask questions as they arise.
10. Treat it as a conversation: View the Q and A session as an opportunity to talk with your audience members–they will ask you questions and you can ask them questions, too.

Top 10 Don’ts:
1. Don’t let others control the session: A simple, “next question” is easy enough to move things along.
2. Talk for too long on any answer or the session: Keep your answers to only a few sentences. If you feel like you will go on for too long, ask to continue the conversation afterwards with the person.
3. Get sidetracked: Similar to #2, beware of going off on tangents
4. Thank or say “great question”: If you say this for every question, every question is great. If you don’t say it for one question, then that’s the one that isn’t great.
5. Laugh at a question or comment: Someone may be asking you a question where he or she truly wants to know the answer even if the audience thinks it’s a silly or very basic question. Keep it professional.
6. Make it personal: Most likely a lively debate rather than someone attacking you. If hostile, just say that it’s better for a personal conversation than in front of everyone.
7. Jump in mid-question: You may think you know what the question will be but don’t cut off the audience member–listen to the whole question
8. Answer every single question or part: You choose which parts you want to answer
9. Use up all of the time because it’s there: If you end 10 minutes early then it’s OK to end 10m early
10. Refuse to take questions. It’s expected that you will take questions unless the format is one where there will be no time (e.g. a room is rented for an event). Expect Q&A to be expected by your audience.

Need help with your next speech? Contact me.

awards speech tips

3 Quick Tips for Awards Speeches

Awards speeches can be tough. After all, you are the one receiving the award and are probably feeling a bit weird about talking about yourself. I would feel the same way.

However, there are a few different paths that you can take so that you don’t talk about yourself for the entire time.

First, if the award is named for someone, find out about his or her life. Tell an interesting story about that person. Al Gore did this when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize and explained how Alfred Nobel was the original inventor of dynamite.

Second, talk about the people who were instrumental in your success. Shine the spotlight on others and tell the story of how others helped you achieve the success you are being honored for.

Third, talk about the purpose behind the award and previous award winners. Similar to the first tip, discuss how the award came to be and how previous winners exemplified the reasons for it. If you choose this path, keep it really short. People are there to hear about you and not a rehash of years past.

Need help with your next speech? Contact me!

give thank you speech to team

Six tips on giving a thank-you speech to your team

As a leader, no doubt you have your team and others to thank for your success. At your end-of-year holiday party, give them a short speech to show your gratitude.

Here are a few guidelines to help you out:

1. Keep it short. No more than 5-10 minutes is necessary. Any longer and you risk annoying the same people you want to honor.

2. Tell 1-3 stories that highlight the successes of the past year. Describe a challenge and how your group overcame it. Put the focus on your team rather than you.

3. Talk about your hopes and dreams for the future. Lay out a few things you are looking forward to for the next year. This does not need to be your “10-point plan for success,” but you can lay out key goals that you want you and your team to achieve.

4. End with a 1-2 line toast that summarizes your feelings. While an internet search can turn up common ones, find a good line from a movie, book, or song, to make it more timely and original.

5. Don’t wait until the last minute. Jot down a few lines and then look at the draft about once a week until then. The longer the speech, the more that you need to prep. Work on keeping it short and sweet. Try it out a few times in front of family members or close friends; the key is to not go into it cold.

6. One final thing, do it early at the party. You get it out of the way and can go on with the rest of the evening without worry. Plus, if you like to imbibe, you will prevent a potentially embarrassing performance later in the evening.

The end of the year is the perfect time for your team to hear from you. Let them know how much you appreciate their hard work and tenacity, and you will carry a stronger team forward into the new year.

Need help with your next speech? Contact me!

One easy way to calm your nerves before you speak: Deep Breathing

One easy way to calm your nerves before you speak: Deep Breathing

Public speaking, for many, turns on their body’s fight or flight reflex. You feel that sense of adrenaline, your muscles tighten up, and both your breathing and heart rate increase.

An easy way to combat this feeling is through going through a set of deep breathing exercises right before you speak.

There are plenty of exercises on the internet that make this process difficult, but it doesn’t have to be.

Here is a simple process to help you out:

  1. Breathe in for a 3-second count
  2. Hold your breath for 3 seconds
  3. Now exhale for a 3-second count
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 above, adding one second to each one.

Keep the process going until you feel relaxed.

Need help with your next speech? Contact me!

Inspiration from a poem for a speech

Inspiration from a poem for a speech

As I thought about the recent Pluto mission, I remembered a speech that Reagan gave after the Challenger disaster. He was supposed to give a long State of the Union speech that night, but opted for a shorter 5-minute speech. Regardless of your political views, it’s an amazing piece.

From a speechwriting perspective, his speechwriter Peggy Noonan did something interesting for his speech: She borrowed a few key lines from a poem by John Gillespie Magee! The poem is the official one of the Royal Air Force and other astronauts and flight directors have quoted it as well.

Poems can be great sources of inspiration and quotations–they work especially well when you are short on time.

Here is the poem first, followed by a video of Regan’s address:

“High Flight” (1941, John Gillespie Magee)

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”

The Video:

Need help with your next speech? Contact me!