Friday Tips – Know Your Audience

Who, why,what & when – getting your Audience to love you

Who are your audience?  

You need to appreciate how your audience is made up. What age range does the audience fit into? Do they all have a common interest?

Why are they at this occasion?

Is it work related or for relaxation? What is the unifying factor that bring them together?

What is the occasion?

You need to understand the significance of the occasion and how you can make your speech relevant or themed to the event or organisation.

When is the speech to be given?

The time of day will affect the response of the your audience.  Breakfast meetings audiences  you will find generally their retention of real information is at its peak.  An after lunch or dinner audience filled with good food, wine and company will be relaxed and looking for humour. Conference audiences are a there for a purpose and so will make the effort to retain information delivered but early afternoon audiences definitely flag.  Time for a speaker to preface their presentation by getting the audience to do a gentle physical stretch or two.

Whatever the time of the day audiences will always respond to humour and if it is self deprecating even more so.

How to be HAPPY

I watched the great documentary HAPPY the other evening.  It gave glimpses of real life stories from around the world and interviews with the leading scientists in happiness research.

It showed that no matter whether you are living in a slum in India, a mosquito infested swamp in Louisiana or having a major accident that knocks your life sideways –  happiness can be yours.

Research by scientists in this field have found that people with extrinsic values that is fame, money or beauty are found to be more anxious, depressed and narcissistic whereas those with  intrinsic values –  developing meaningful relationships, personal growth and community involvement have a profound sense of well-being and self-esteem.

The jam and cream on the cake of a quest for happiness is attributed to being in the zone, in the flow or present in the moment.  Writing does it for me.

HAPPY by Wadi Rum Films

Friday Writing Tips – Non-Fiction

A finger wagging style of writing  non-fiction does not always inspire alphabet-15461_150readers to sit up late into the early hours digesting page after page. Generally people who choose their ‘how to’ or non-fictional work do so for a purpose and you hope that  is sufficient to get them to turn the page.  The writing and the explanation required must go beyond thorough but often the reader finds it hard work.

My first book Finding Your Voice – Ten Steps to Successful Public Speaking, (published by Lothian in 2005) taught me a great deal about writing non-fiction.  Here are my 3 tips to keep the reader engrossed to the end the book.

Prepare an exhaustive overview. Define who, why, what and how key points, arguments, examples, anecdotal material and  illustrations. Plan the layout of chapters.

Keep it simple and keep it moving. Be critical – do you really need that 49th version of back story or why it is so? Recognise those tricked up, parlied up paras that fools the ego into believing the message was nailed it with a pretty turn of words and delete.  Keep it simple, keep it honest, keep it moving.

If you have publisher listen to your editor if not employ a quality editor.  Either a Developmental Editor who will help develop your project even before you start on the writing or a Substantive Editor  once you have a full text. Be open to suggestion, often you are too close to it to have vision. Be flexible to changes.

 

Friday Public Speaking Tips – Telling Your Story

microphone
Your Running Mate

 

Telling your story is  a powerful strategy to connect with your audience. A motivational speaker will use their personal story to preface and enhance the core message of their presentation. But opportunities for telling your story are not limited to motivational speaking often speakers are called upon to talk about themselves or their work.    3 tips  for an effective presentation.

Planning the content – what are the pivotal parts of your story that uplift, illuminate or demonstrate who you are.  Remember that the audience does not need to know the warts ‘n all boring bits

Develop the key points of the story.  It is not enough to say I was an dyslexic child with low self-esteem, flesh it out more, give the audience examples of how it felt.  Have the courage to be in touch with your emotions. Audiences respond always to truth, honesty and authenticity.

Respect the telling of your story –   it has valuable life  lessons that you have learned so give it the respect it deserves.  Slow your pace, use fearless eye-contact  and pause for emphasis.  Rehearse and rehearse the speech until flows easily.  A little self-deprecating humour is a great ingredient to add to the mix if the material is overwhelming.

 

I want to join the circus

I love the circus. Cirque du Soleil has trounced all of the homespun touring circuses of the recent past with their reliance on animal acts of lions, tigers and bejewelled elephants. Recently I visited the oldest touring circus in Australia. Joseph Ashton founded the family circus dynasty in 1853 and today the family has adapted the traditional acts to encompass new skills of physical daring.

Over the past two decades animal activists have lobbied hard to secure the release of performance animals from circuses. The Ashton family was faced with change or perish. now they have only two animal acts – dogs and stallions. Instead the circus family members from toddlers upwards pride themselves on a range of acrobatic, wire walking, juggling, trapeze and clown skills. Their tight little community multi tasks from box office duties, ring maintenance and selling hot chips and popcorn. All dedicated, all focused to continue the life of entertaining their audience. They will do what it takes to upscale their skills and come up with new acts to replace old, to compete with the high-tech glamour of Cirque du Soleil.

One act performed on the slack wire I found encapsulated the joy of a circus performer, with each new daring feat I saw how present in the moment the performer had to be to maintain his balance. The circus community pulls together and whether they are practicing or performing they are in the moment. In the joyful moment of who they are. In the moment that’s when we step into our power.

Friday Public Speaking Tips – Clichés

microphone
Your Running Mate

A speaker or a writer who resorts to clichés is often viewed as lazy or slapdash. (Finding Your Voice Ten Steps to Successful Public Speaking) 

Yes that is true but I love a familiar phrase, a welcome platitude or neat idiom and my everyday speak is peppered with  them.  So 3 Tips for speakers fearful of being thought lesser individuals for their use of a ‘well worn phrase.’

Ask yourself is it pertinent to your audience. A certain measure of vulnerability goes down well with most audiences but if you are a giving a keynote speech at a publishing conference – I wouldn’t.

If a cliché gives clout to your words and works in with the rhythm and  style of speech, use it with a sense of drama – a pause and a broad smile works well to put the audience on notice that you are well aware you are slipping in a cheeky little cliché.

Give the cliché a spin –  audiences love  a bit of cleverness with an instantly recognisable phrase. Today’s exercise: Have fun revamping  these common garden phrases – firing on all cylinders and talking the talk and walking the walk

Friday Tips for Writers – Left Brain Freeze

alphabet-15461_150She was shaking as she drove home.  Sighting a red telephone box she pulled over.  The phone box smelt of stale tobacco, she dialed Tom’s surgery number, his nurse answered. She drummed her fingers on the graffiti covered telephone book until she heard his voice. 

I start to write dialogue. I cut and delete it. I write again. I delete it. Dialogue frequently swamps me. I’m too explanatory by nature and my characters consequently become wordy wanting to fill in all the gaps for the reader.

I push away from the desk and wander into the kitchen. I open and shut the cupboard and refrigerator doors. I make coffee, I open the fridge again hoping to find a snack.

Its my pattern, I seek diversion preferably food, when I get momentarily stuck or know that I’m wallowing in waffling dialogue. When I resolve my tension with this type of diversion I’m still stuck when I return to the keyboard.

But I have found I can access my creative side and get back into the flow of my work with these three action steps.

Identify and recognise what I do to resolve my creative tension. I counter that strategy immediately by getting some fresh air, water the plants or a walk round the garden.

I use my intuition to receive a topic to write about – committing to write the first thought that pops into my mind. I set the timer for 5 minutes and  write, it does not matter what the content.

Thankfully that exercise blasts my left brain freeze and takes me back into my right creative hemisphere. I find I can get back into the flow of my work with a fresh approach.I’m back in the saddle again:

‘I’ve had a wretched day any chance of you coming for a drink tonight?’ she asked.  

‘I’m playing squash but will come later,’ he said. She sighed as she replaced the phone on its cradle.

What’s your way of dealing with writer’s block?

Absolute Bollywood!

vbsd0070_ntscEvery now and then when I am writing, my mind seeks a diversion from the  task of smoothing back story, building plot and fleshing characters.  I wander, flick through the DVDs. Should I ? The movie Slum Dog Millionaire  is in my hand, why not you deserve a coffee and a break.

I know a movie break is simply my way of resolving my creative tension.   It does not help overcome my impasse.

I read the synopsis; the word BOLLYWOOD captures me, now that’s a sound with a chipper rhythm.    Balderdash/Bollywood both trip of the tongue so nicely. It’s a word that surely has a broader appeal than simply a noun to describe Indian movies.  An encompassing adjective I think.

‘That’s sheer bollywood,’ said the lawyer jamming his wig hard on his head, his eyes flinty with anger.

‘Naughty, naughty you keep your bollywood to yourself,’ she said with a saucy smile.

I see white letters high on a hill in Bangladesh surrounded by expensive homes or is that sheer bollywood in my thinking?

And I’m back in my world again wanting to write but first I think I might go up and get into the belly dance outfit and jiggle around the lounge.  That’s all for today, that’s your bollywood lot!

Friday Tips for Speakers – Win an audience – speak to time

Speak to Time
Speak to Time

My pet peeve as a former conference and event organiser is  a presenter who does not speak to their allotted and agreed time.  I have known many a speaker, watch draped over the lectern, me zipping my finger across my throat each time  we made eye contact, continue on without any sign of chagrin, some 10 minutes-plus over time.

Four reasons why you SHOULD and COULD speak to time.

The audience are more inclined to absorb a speaker’s presentation if they run to time.  Speakers who run over time are evaluated poorly by the audience, seemingly their frustration obstructs the quality of the message.

Consideration for others:  Often one over-time speaker will cause a snowball effect with other speakers running late as they become stressed with the longer wait to ‘go on.’   Carefully timed agendas are disrupted. Refreshment breaks and meal service delayed.

Prepare & Rehearse: Speakers running overtime are slack. It comes down to preparation. You need to thoroughly rehearse and time your presentation. When rehearsing at home make sure that it comes in under the allotted time given by organisers.  Because the performance you give at home is generally at a faster pace than the one you give on centre stage. Double check your itinerary and speaking notes or disc before leaving home. (I once had a keynote speaker who arrived with the wrong disc for his Powerpoint presentation and had to wing it which caused him to run horribly late.)

Want a repeat gig? Then speak to time. Be professional. Organisers    of events and conferences hate their work to be compromised and will cross a tardy speaker off their talent list.