Your big marketing checklist




A.  Overview - Speaking as a Powerful Introduction
B.  The Thrill of Speaking
C.  You Have a Lot to Offer
D.  Planning for Your Speech
E.  You Already Are a Speaker
F.  Stage Fright
G.  Preparing for your Speech
H.  Speaking Pocket Reminder
I.  Motivation for Speakers
J.  Introductions
K.  Your First Two Minutes
L.  Speaking as Story Telling
M.  Be a Story Teller
N.  Organizing Your Speech
O.  Beginning Your Speech
P.  Improving Your Stories with Visualization
Q.  Improving Your Stories with Dramatization
R.  Content Basics
S.  Getting In Touch with Your Audience
T.  Let Your Audience be Part of Your Talk
U.  Stay Humble
V.  Using Humor
W.  Taking Questions
X.  Speakers Bureau Record Keeping
Y.  Audience Evaluation Form


Speaking to groups is the most powerful means of informing, involving and persuading people. For an idea to truly have power, sooner or later someone must say something to someone else by word-of-mouth.  Public opinion really never crystallizes into anything important until one person speaks to another.

Have you noticed how this works in our everyday lives?  For example, a new building is completed and we see it advertised daily in the newspapers and television.  "Might be good" we think to ourselves.  We are intrigued, but unmoved. Then a friend asks us excitedly:  "Say, have you taken a good look at that new Klutzendorf high-rise -- it's sensational."  We will probably request a tour of available suites the next day.

 It is the power of face-to-face communication that this  speaking manual is about.
Included in our consideration of face-to-face communication activities can ultimately be not only speaking engagements, but paid professional seminars, workshops, trade show exhibits, meetings and other person-to-person opportunities.
Public relations face-to-face is dealing with less people at a time than traditional publicity, but it creates more impact.  It is a concentration on quality rather than quantity.  We are moving beyond information and striving for involvement and influence.

It may take some effort for you to see the importance of reaching people face-to-face.  An article in the Building section of the Sunday San Diego Union may reach a half million homes. A talk before the local Kiwanis Club reaches perhaps 50 people.  Both the article and the preparation for the talk took a day or two.  Which is best?  If the newspaper article does not generate any phone calls and the speech causes five people to become involved in interior design for offices, it would demonstrate the practicality of face-to-face public relations.

Why do we like to speak?  Like driving fast, it is a thrill to succeed at something that is a little terrifying.  Speaking is fun, too.  It's flattering to be invited to speak.  It's exciting to share our ideas with others and have something worthwhile to say in an entertaining way.

Though your speaking date seems a long time away, it is best to begin making notes and planning as soon as possible.  The process of refining and fine-tuning a presentation takes time and the better prepared you are the more relaxed and confident you'll be.

One of the most delightful discoveries you'll have is finding that speaking is not all that complicated or difficult.  Remember: you are speaking on what you know best, your job and the life that revolves around your job.  You know your job, and so you can speak with enthusiastic experience about it.

Being fired up about a subject is the surest way to please an audience.  Your speakers bureau administrator can help find the right topic to suit your experience and interests.  You may have an excellent perspective on certain areas.

Personal experiences can include:
Unusual Experiences:  Were any of your speakers ever in a disaster or emergency situation?  Anyone had a life with an unusual turn of events?

Specialized Knowledge:  Your organization has many specialists, some with perhaps decades of experience at their jobs.  You are in an ideal position to help those people discover the fascinating details of their job.

Rags to Riches:  What struggles, setbacks,  challenges and victories were encountered by your company as it went from where it was to where it is now?  Such stories, when told with vigor and modesty, are invariably popular.

Recreation and Hobbies:  You will have to decide  if your speakers' pastimes are of value to your organization.  A talk that ties business interests to a hobby could be particularly interesting:  For example, a textile industry executive who weaves cloth at home.

The excitement of being invited to speak before an important group only begins to fade when several concerns begin to crop up. "I need a plan" you say.  And you are right.

We will consider some of the reasons for planning and preparing for your talk here.  Later in this manual you will find a variety of checklists and suggestions to help you in a more detailed and systematic way.

Before you commit yourself to speak, ask the program chairman to send you a letter that confirms all the particulars: the date, time and place of your talk, the number of people attending and their interests, plus some idea of what you are expected to discuss.

Be cautious of groups with program chairmen who say things like, "Golly, whatever you want to talk about would be just great--we're just a regular bunch  of  guys."   Gently probe your contact to determine how you can tailor your presentation to meet the group's needs.

When are you speaking?  A luncheon meeting can draw a crowd.  To a lesser degree, so can breakfast groups.  Evening meetings in some cases are less popular.  The theory is that business people are inclined to go home to their families rather than stay in the city.  Make sure you have a clear idea of how many people you are going to speak to.  It's no fun to face an audience of 12 when the program chairman lead you to believe that your presentation would fill the main ballroom to standing room only.

Since publicity and potential sales are part of your reason for speaking, find out what sort of press coverage the previous speakers obtained. Some groups do a great job of promoting their meetings and building attendance.  Others make do with a brief mention in the quarterly newsletter.

You can make sure you gain maximum exposure by providing your own news media materials. Better to have invested that time and money to tell your story your way than to let the group's publicity chairman guess about what you are planning to do. You might be wisest to send out the news releases yourself, if you see no solid indication of promotional skills in the group you are serving.

All that blocks you from a successful performance is mental clutter.  Unclutter your mind and let go.  You are the greatest authority alive on you.   Reach inside yourself for those  experiences.  Your success lies in discovering the fun and excitement of your experiences with the organization you represent--and speaking out with enthusiasm.

A survey once revealed that when asked about the things that scared them the most, 41 percent of the respondents noted "speaking to a group." Stage fright is not only a natural thing to have, but a valuable part of the speaking adventure.

Stage fright is nothing more than adrenaline, the fight-or-flight hormone, which is the body's mechanism to prepare for a physical threat. Every speaker experiences it.  Experiences speakers use the stage fright to give them energy and quick wit.  But the true key to harnessing fear is thorough preparedness.

In fact, anyone who is cool as a cucumber in front of an audience, usually turns out to be as exciting as a cucumber, too.  Audiences don't want speakers with cool, they want speakers with fire. And just a touch of stage fright gives every professional speaker that extra blaze of action. 

One reason professional speakers seem so comfortable on the platform is that they have prepared for their presentation in the hours just before their presentation.  This involves a great deal more than just reviewing the outline of your talk.

1. Know your audience—who they are, how to get to them with your message.

2. Check your setting—microphones, wiring, lights, chalkboard, props, and so on.

3. Review your material—have what you came to say clearly in your mind.

4. Prepare your body—do some physical exercises to remove tension from your body.

5. Prepare your voice—do vocal exercises to allow you to use a full speaking range.

6. Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally--be in touch with your audience and yourself.

Let's take a look at each of these preparation steps in more detail:

1. KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE  The best way -- and most enjoyable method--of getting to know your audience is to meet them in advance.  Professional speakers take time to mingle with the individuals who will form their audiences.  They do this during cocktail hours and meals.

The hour or two you are there in advance also allows you to hear other speakers and gather details for the spontaneous humor you will build into your talk.

2. CHECK THE SETTING  Essential to an assured presence on the platform is the knowledge that all the equipment around you works. Personally check each detail yourself -- sometimes twice.  Does the mike work? Can you be heard in the back of the room? Is there chalk with the chalkboard? Is the lighting correct?  Who will be handling the lights? These and dozens of other details are part of making sure your physical support materials are in order.

3. REVIEW YOUR PRESENTATION MATERIAL Are your notes in order?  Does the host have your introduction?  Have you added all the special comments and humor you have in mind for this particular group?

4. PREPARE YOUR BODY It does not take much understanding of the principles of holistic health to know that a bright mind works best in a body that's in good physical shape.  A relaxed body with good muscle tone helps you look and feel better on the platform.  Your interest in speaking is just another good reason to get in shape or keep in shape.  There are a number of easy-to-read books out on physical fitness, nutrition and health.

On the day of your presentation, you can get physically ready by jogging and exercising.  Top speaking professionals do this.

Your final body preparation can take place at the head table--with no one in the audience being aware of it.  Practice yoga-like deep breathing.  Stretch your arms and legs with some subtle isometric exercises.  Allow your body to become completely loose and limp.  Concentrate on your breathing.

5. PREPARE YOUR VOICE A speaker's voice is as vital a part of his equipment as a microphone, tape recorder or the speech itself.  Exercising the voice is essential.  The mouth, throat and vocal cords are muscles which must be used fully or they lose their power.

Proper warm-up exercises with the voice create a richer, more pleasing sound.  Many of us find our voices become unpleasantly higher and thinner because of tension in the voice box. Exercise reduces this.  Consider a few vocal and facial exercises while you are driving to the event.

Beginning speakers need to be reminded to use the full range of the voice--speaking at differing speeds, different pitches.  We suggest special reading in this area--many books are available on this topic.  Actors and singers study them--so should speakers.

Getting your mind and heart ready to speak are keys to your success in front of an audience.  Make a copy of the comments below and carry them with you. Say them to yourself a few minutes before speaking.

• Speaking on this topic  is ideal for me. This presentation works because I have put my best thoughts and feelings into it.

• No one in the audience is better qualified than I am to make this presentation.

• I am ready to capture the zest and sharpness that any nervousness is providing.

• This talk will be a new experience for this audience, even though it is not new to me.

• I wish to help people to be more valuable to themselves through an increased understanding of office interior design and the building environment.

• I understand the purpose of my talk and the people to whom I am speaking.

• I am at my enthusiastic best, ready to enjoy good humor with this audience when appropriate.

Introductions for speakers are far more important than many of us realize.  Introducing a speaker does the same thing as introducing a friend: a friendly, receptive atmosphere is created, one with some trust and a common interest.

Many otherwise excellent speeches are sent off to a rocky start by a clumsy introduction.  Too many meeting leaders still look upon the introduction as unimportant.  They seldom spend much time preparing it.

This is why you must write your own introductions.  No one knows more about your material and you, than you do.  Why should you spend all the effort to prepare an excellent presentation only to have it poorly introduced?

It's embarrassing to step to the lecture right after an inept introduction.  The simple way to avoid this is to hand your master of ceremonies your introduction.  The M.C. will almost always appreciate your support.  One of the values of a good introduction is that it gives you a chance to have things said about yourself and the event that you might not feel comfortable saying yourself.

Professional speakers use the T.I.S. formula for introductions.  This stands for Topic, Interest and Speaker.  The material to be covered in the introduction is to appear in that order.  Thus an introduction could sound like this:

"To the educators here today, an understanding of the way we communicate with each other is essential in teaching. The news media plays a powerful part by influencing us with thousands of advertising messages each day.  We react to these messages -- but we don't always know how--or why. Often we feel manipulated or misled.

   "Today we have a rare opportunity to learn how advertising is used to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace.  We will see examples and demonstrations of practical, easy-to-understand ways to build commitment and involvement.

  "Speaking to us today is a professional communicator who has dedicated 15 years to  public awareness programs. Gary Beals is the winner of five major public relations awards. He is president of Gary Beals Advertising & Public Relations Agency. He is here to help us do a better job of communicating and motivating the people we work with.  Join me in welcoming Gary Beals."

Whether you are writing an introduction for yourself or for a speaker you will be introducing, consider these pointers:

•  Gather your facts about the speaker and his or her topic.  Speak to the speaker yourself -- if you have to rely on a third party, get the information from them in writing.  Too many speakers have been introduced with the wrong topic -- even the wrong name --because the introducer did not deal directly with the speaker.

•  Condense facts that could be boring.  Notice that in the sample introduction above, we mention five major awards being won.  There is no value in spelling out what each is for, except as ego- gratification for the speaker -- which is not a good reason.  In the case of employment history; the most recent, highest ranking job is ample -- there is no need to review the speaker's assignments since he left school.

•  Some professional speakers build a gag into an introduction so that the program chairman can enjoy getting a laugh.  For example: "During lunch I asked our speaker if he has lived here all his life.  He said: 'Not yet.'"

•  When discussing the speaker's qualifications, stick to those which most closely tie to the subject of the presentation.

•  End your introduction by clearly and enthusiastically pronouncing the speaker's full name.

•  Give everyone a break. Avoid all trite comments such as, "It is a great personal privilege and pleasure to introduce to you..."  Keep it simple and sincere: "Join me in a warm Ohio welcome for Senator Orville Smith."

•  Don't hype your speaker.  A humdrum speaker preceded by a flashy, overstated introduction will disappoint the audience.  Such introductions can also embarrass the speaker--which is no help either.

•  If you have booked a speaker who is known to be humorous, don't promise the audience that they will be rolling in the aisles before the talk is over.  If you leave an audience expecting another Steve Martin, they may be disappointed in your speaker's understated, dry wit.  Let the speaker use his humor to surprise the audience in his own way.

•  Be careful with humor in your introductions.  Do not use humor with double meanings, put-downs or snide comments which could be misunderstood by the audience.  Inside jokes are fine -- as long as everyone in the audience is inside the scope of the gag.

• And finally, remember good things come in small packages.  Any introduction more than a minute is too long.  Pro speaker Charlie Jones tells his introducers: "If you take longer than 15 seconds to introduce me you're starting to get into trouble."

You have just been introduced. You are seated at the head table or are standing in the wings. We are now going to take a look at what you can do in the next two or three minutes from the point at which you hear your name being called out and the applause of the audience.

THE FORMAL APPROACH:  First, you walk briskly to the podium, holding any notes you might be carrying unobtrusively down at your side.  Toastmasters teaches you to shake hands with the introducer, who has been taught to remain at his post at the lecture until you arrive there.  This small bit of protocol is rarely observed outside Toastmasters, but it is a nice touch.

What is important is that you do not rush into your presentation immediately upon reaching the lectern. Pause. Wait for the person who introduced you to get seated.  Take a few seconds to become re-acquainted with the lectern and its equipment.  Adjust the microphone if necessary. Pause--even more. The audience will wait. Take that moment to take a deep breath or two.  The silence builds an expectation in the audience.  When you begin speaking everyone is riveted on your words.

THE CASUAL APPROACH:  After a few years of using the technique just described, which I learned from a pompous speaker, I changed to the style used by the great Bill Gove.  Bill doesn't lecture -- he visits with his audience, relaxed, easy-going. He takes the platform as if he was in the middle of a great conversation with the people at the head table and he's going to let us in on the story. It is an approach with great human naturalness -- and let's face it, speaking to 1,000 people is not a natural act.

THE SPEAKER'S STANCE:  Place yourself in the ideal speaking position.  This is a slightly contrived stance.  Your right foot is slightly forward, your right hand near your stomach.  This posture allows you to lean forward and back--movements which create a feeling of giving and being open to receiving from the audience.  The more natural position would be to stand flat-footed, with feet side by side.  The only body movement this position allows is rocking side-to-side--which is annoying to the audience.

Now you are ready to speak to your audience. What will you do?  At times you may have been preceded by a popular, dynamic speaker who captured the group.  In such cases, your audience still belongs to that speaker.  You would be wise in such situations to acknowledge that person.

One of the most comforting discoveries about speaking is that so much of good speaking is story telling.  Think of it: Platform speaking is alien to most of us, but we all tell stories.  Our lives are filled with stories -- many of which make a point or show some worthwhile lesson in life.

   One of the easiest ways to become a popular speaker is to tell stories.  Start collecting these stories -- little vignettes, or speeches within a speech.  It won't be long before you have dozens of these stories, from two to six minutes long.  Each should have the three P's in it: "Premise, People and Payoff."  Soon you will have a collection of stories about office interior design and furniture -- all you have to do is string them together in a way that best suits your audience.

Working with you in story telling is the great power of people's subconscious minds.  Your lively descriptions come to life as pictures in your audience's minds--they can literally see what you are saying.  They can feel it too -- a zany event will have them laughing; a touching incident may cause their eyes to glisten.  The tale of you nearly falling off the roof of a high-rise could have dozen of palms damp with nervous perspiration.

In short, a well-told story can have the same effect on your listeners as the original incident might have had.  If you want to create that kind of impact on your audience, dramatize and intensify your storytelling.  Create action and excitement.

Use appropriate detail and colorful language in recreating scenes.  Use words that bring a full range of human senses to play.  A verbal tour of a office your furnished, for example, should call up a variety of sights and sounds of the place.

Now, if you visualize a speech as stringing together these stories, linked with bridges of logic, speaking becomes fun instead of threatening.

The attention-holding power of a story is recognized in writing as well as in speaking. Notice how many Reader's Digest articles begin with a story: "It was a cold, dark night.  I was driving my new sports car faster than was comfortable, but I was late to the meeting. Suddenly..." You get the idea.

One of the best ways to start a speech is with a story.  We all love to hear stories, so the audience will be right with you, listening. You'll get into the spirit by telling your story.  Those first few minutes of nervousness will quickly fade away.  This part is so simple, most new speakers might say, "That's it! Just tell them a story!"  Almost.  A vividly-told story is easy to listen to, easy to remember, and for most people, easy to tell.

To help you perfect your skills as a speaker of office interior design, we will be discussing several techniques to help make your storytelling --that is, speaking--a powerful communication tool.

Without being overly dramatic or resorting to sensationalism, jump right into the most interesting aspects of office interior design. Avoid the pre-ramble.  Start with one of the stories you have already planned to include in your talk.  A good story creates suspense from the first words -- especially if you tell it with enthusiasm.

Think of yourself as a member of the audience. Would you rather hear sermonizing, lecturing, general statements -- or would you prefer a story?  There's no need to begin with a bland history of the American office.  Don't even concern yourself with what might seem logical--there's more to people than logic.

There are several techniques that can be used to bring even more color to stories.  These are visualization, dramatization and personalization. In every case, make sure your stories are providing lots of specific details. 

Check your story like a newspaper reporter would:  Does it answer the questions:  When?  Where?  Why? What?  Who?  And often, How?  Be sure to edit your work carefully.  There are no editors in your audience, just people who might fall asleep, get fidgety or start whispering to a friend if you are not providing them with stimulating information.

Don't go overboard on detail -- you are not out to dazzle anyone with statistics, just help them with specific facts.

People don't come to hear speakers just to watch their lips move--bring your talk to life with gestures, body movement.  Think like a mime. Think Italian.  Start moving around.  You can keep your speech alive with action.  This action will loosen you up-and relax the audience quickly.

If the character in your story is driving a car, grip an imaginary steering wheel and you will put the audience in the front seat with you.

If someone in your story has been working depressed in a dingy old office, show how he moved with slumped shoulders. If another character is excited, mimic his or her quick, lively movements.

If this sounds like you have to become an actor, don't worry -- you probably already are a bit of a ham.  Notice how you tell stories in a in a group of friends.  You speak with excitement, expressive feeling and movement.  Doesn't your audience deserve the same vibrancy?  You can be sure they will enjoy your enthusiasm just as much as your friends.

Fortunately for you, the interior design profession offers many exciting props which you can use with the stories you tell.

When he was once asked why he used so many zany props in his presentations, nationally-known motivational speaker Ira Hayes said," How long can you watch the radio?"  Remember, even though we talk here about an audience hearing you, psychologists claim that more than 80% of our information comes to us from what we see.

In telling your stories, remember to add dialogue.  Don't just tell people about what occurred -- become a playwright.  You can add specific details, facts and lots of color by quoting characters:
The  boss yelled,  "We have to close the office --there's no way to get the blueprints in time."
   But I had to plead with him,  "Fred--there's a solution.  If we can borrow a machine from..."

See how this creates a picture for you?  It works much better than saying, "So the boss said we would have to close the office because of the blueprints not arriving.  But I said there's a solution if we..."

What does your audience want to hear? Basically, there are three types of speeches:
1.  The talk to persuade, convince and get action.
2.  The talk to inform.
3.  The talk to entertain.

Your presentations are usually a combination of the first two types.  Ideally, your talks can contain a bit of all three.  The trend in professional speaking these days is toward talks with humor.  In many circles people have heard so many motivational speakers they are not sure where to focus all their new-found inspiration.

To follow are some ideas on how to be clear in informing people when you talk.  One of the main reasons some speakers fail to make a clear talk is that they try to cover too much material in the time allotted.  Getting an audience to remember more than one or two basic concepts in a 30-minute talk is usually overly ambitious.  By the time you have told two or three stories and documented the reasoning behind your ideas, you will find that most of your time has been well invested.

Clarity can be added to a talk by reminding the listeners of where they are in your talk.  You use a quick verbal outline.  "There are three basic reasons why even the smallest business needs financial help....First, recognize that... Secondly, you probably know... and third..."

You create clarity when you begin to talk at a certain date and move forward or backward from that time.  Logically, a manufacturing process might begin with the raw materials and end up with the product in the hands of a happy customer.

Clarity is created when you turn numbers into images:  "All the paperwork created by the U.S. Government in a week would fill 43 freight cars" for example.  Then you can add a quick one liner: As Will Rogers said, "Aren't you glad you don't get all the government you pay for?"

Clarity is greatly improved when you use props and visual aids.  If we gain 80 percent of our information from our vision, you are missing the bet if you always just rely on your voice. Use props and audio visual aids to clarify specific point or portions of your talk.

Once a speaker knows his or her material and is fired up with desire about it, the final challenge is to make the audience a part of the talk.

Your job is like that of the true salesman. Selling is the art of showing the audience that you understand their needs and want to help them achieve their goals.  If you can show them that, in a clear and entertaining way, you will keep their attention throughout your talk.

A sure way to capture your audience's attention was suggested by Chaunsey Depew: "Tell them something about themselves they didn't think you could possibly know."

This can be done with imagination and some research.  Often statistics provide an interesting vehicle for such surprises.

Another technique which takes some effort, is to actually learn the names of various people in the audience and refer to them in your talk.  Many clubs, particularly the civic clubs--Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions and the like -- have membership rosters available.  These usually list members names and occupations. You can request these in advance of your talk or even examine the list while having your lunch before your talk.

Now you have a talk that is tailored to your audience, with three or four references to people who are seated in front of you: "And now I have a few thoughts about the new responsibilities of bankers to small business, which I think John Robinson here will agree with..."

Don't be misled by the crowd, you are speaking to one person at a time.  The audience is not an "it" or even a "they" really, it's a bunch of "me."

Use the word -you- frequently in your talks—but don't abuse it.  If you are getting into any areas of sensitivity, it is best to include yourself grammatically in the group: "We often forget to wear seat belts, and statistically, it's one of our bigger mistakes in driving..."

There's a lot you can do to get an audience involved in your talk.  One of the easiest ways to do this is to ask for a show of hands.  There is a specific technique for this.  First, you let the audience know you are going to ask them a question or obtain a vote:  "Could we see a show of hands on the question I am about to ask you, please?"  Now they have a just a few seconds to think about participating.  You can now ask your question: "How many of you have seen false and misleading advertising in the last month?"

You can ask a member or two of the audience to help you with your props or demonstrations.  There is no limit to how you can involve audience members.  A speaker from a zoo might not be able to bring a 30-foot python to his presentation, but a steel tape measure being unwound down the aisle by a volunteer from the audience makes a point about size.

Polling the audience is another involvement that creates an increased interest in what you are doing.  Remember, that you are striving for a partnership with your audience.  That partnership can be built with openness, honesty and humor that's to the point, and involvement through questions and exchange.

Be sincere.  Be absolutely open and genuine with your audience.  A contrived or false statement can often fool an individual, but you can't get away with fooling an entire audience.

Audiences are also sensitive to arrogance, superiority and attitudes of having a higher social or educational background.  It is essential that even the most highly acclaimed speaker plays down his expertise or authority.  Modesty inspires trust and is relaxing.

One of the best ways to capture your audience is with humor—but we are not necessarily  talking about telling jokes.  The best speakers are marked by one delightful trait:  they don't take themselves too seriously.  They have fun with their material.

Think funny. Think funny about everything all the time.  The worst thing you can do in speaking is taking yourself too seriously.  The solution is to not become a joke-teller.  Professional comedians spend only a tiny fraction of their lives being humorous.  The rest of the time they are intent upon observing people, situations and activities and finding the humor in them.  That's an important reason why you should always arrive early at your speaking engagements.  You need ample time to observe the group and find out what's been going on with them. You can usually find situations that lend themselves to a humorous series of comments.   

In using humor, use these guidelines:

• Tell stories that make you laugh.  Pick stories that fit your character.  It may seem obvious, but a story is easier to tell when you are amused by it.

• Build your humor around the things people understand the most:  A joke about computer software may not go over nearly as well as stories about marriage, children, everyday office situations and driving.

• Don't be hesitant to laugh along with your audience.  Once you can see your comment has sparked some laughter, join your audience in the laugh.  Several comedians do this because they realize that laughter is infectious--the more people hear laughter, the more they want to laugh.

• Don't be offensive.  Sexually-oriented humor is bound to offend someone.  Ethnic or racial jokes are definitely not suitable.  So are any dialect jokes if you can't mimic an authentic accent. When in doubt, leave it out.

• Pause at your punch line.  Wait for the laugh and usually the audience will oblige you.  Watch for the incongruities of life everywhere.  Observe people being a little bit wacky (we all are, you know)--then exaggerate it for a humorous effect.   

• A big audience helps with humor.  If you are really concerned about having a humorous impact on your audience, make sure you have a big enough audience.  There is a brush fire effect to laughter -- it seems that the more people hear laughter, the more disposed they are to laugh more themselves.  Thus you may discover that your humor-filled talks seem to go over better with groups of 100 than with groups of 20.

Welcome questions as an opportunity to have a conversation with your audience.  Questions from the audience help link everyone to you. Only rarely will such questions be disruptive to the well prepared speaker.

On rare occasions some questioners have an insecurity that comes out as an argumentative, pesky personality -- and they love laying tough questions on speakers.  They are looking for their moment in the limelight.

Remember the audience is with you, not him, so don't let him rattle you.  If his comment or question is totally wrong, open the discussion to the audience and let his peers correct him.  If there's any merit to anything he says, thank him, agree and quickly move on.

If it's a misunderstanding, clarify the person's remarks by saying something like, "Let's see if I understand you..."  If the person has the wrong information or is offering an opinion, thank him and ask the audience for additional comments on the topic.

If someone in the audience begins making a long winded commentary, you can wait for a tiny pause in his chatter and jump back in:  "Thank you very much.  That's an interesting point, and perhaps we can come back to it later in the presentation..."

Avoid any temptation to embarrass the audience member, but bring him into the act by asking him an easy question.  Don't ask him to comment on material presented -- you know he didn't hear it.

Sometimes a hot issue gets two or more people battling among themselves.  A solution is to thank all warriors for the vigorous sense of involvement.  Then either bring others into the discussion or refocus the warrior's attention on the purpose.  Emphasize the areas of agreement.

Finally, remember you have no obligation to take care of anyone in your audience.  If you can sense that most of your audience is with you, you need not concern yourself with silent minorities. In this case, and in all cases above, remember you can't please everyone.


1.  Choose topics which you have earned the right to speak on.
You have spent years building your experience and expertise in select areas—that's your source for speaking topics.

2.  Develop your talk in a modular format for flexibility; introduction, key points with humor or stories that emphasize them, tell the audience what's in it for them, ask for action as you close.

3.  Use evaluation forms. Evaluate yourself after each talk and study the responses of those in the audience who filled out their critique forms as well.

4.  Practice your talk before small groups to perfect it. Practice visualizing your audience.

5.  Collect a portfolio of letters of praise. Read them every now and then when you begin to doubt yourself.  Be ready to send copies of them to anyone who needs further documentation of your ability.

6.  Tape all your talks and listen to them later to see where you can improve on your work. Tapes can also show you that you are doing better than you thought, too—if you get caught up in hearing only your flaws, the tape can make it clear that the audience was enjoying what you had for them.

7.  Get to know other speakers who are successful at doing what you want to be doing.  Ask them for help—everyone likes to be asked for advice.

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If you have any questions about the material above,  or on any aspect of marketing communication, we welcome an opportunity to speak with you. 


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