FREE Public Speaking Class Jan 11 (Twin Cities)

flyer_Date: Monday, January 11, 2016

Time: 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM

Location:  Ridgedale Library (Minnetonka, MN) 

Link to reserve your seat (free event presented on behalf of District 6 Toastmasters)

Speak with conviction and confidence! No matter the subject, you can capture your audience’s attention and keep them engaged. In this FREE, interactive class, you will learn how to:

  • Create a “bumper sticker” defining statement to position yourself to your audience
  • Start and end with a bang
  • Keep your audience engaged with stories
  • Develop your points clearly
  • Maintain eye contact, even when using notes
  • Power up your PowerPoint with simple-to-implement ideas
  • Deliver with confidence

Reserve your seat now!



Familiarize. Don’t Memorize.


It was the summer of 2009 and I had eight, 45-minute presentations to memorize as a newly hired high school workshop speaker for a local college. The other new speakers and I had been given scripts for each of the presentations, with topics ranging from budgeting to sexual harassment, and had been told to follow the scripts closely to make sure that the promised objectives were covered. We had six weeks to learn the scripts, and would be presenting four of the eight topics in front of the program administrators and a few of the other new speakers.

For the first presentation, I spent hours breaking it down and practicing in small chunks. I practiced in my bedroom. I practiced in my car. I even practiced on the driveway, outlining the presentation in chalk, complete with colorful pictures.  It was an agonizingly slow process.  And I had to do it seven more times before the end of summer.

I had two main problems. One, the material wasn’t my own and some of the phrasing wasn’t my style. Two, it was really, really hard to memorize something word for word, no matter who wrote it!  But, I tried, and largely succeeded, or so I thought.

On the day of the presentation, I was the first speaker. I went through the script almost flawlessly.  It was . . . too perfect.  Actually, it wasn’t perfect at all. My pace was a little slow, as I was trying to recall the exact wording at times. My words weren’t my own, so I sounded a little “stilted.” And, my eye contact was more of a glazed-over look as I was actually looking at the words on the imaginary page in front of me.  I had studied the scripts so carefully, that I knew where on the page I was when I was presenting the material.

When I finished, I looked over at the administrators. They smiled politely, clearly wondering what happened to the expressive woman who had wowed them with a lively audition just a week before. And then one said, “You don’t have to memorize it and you can even tell your own stories, as long as they are relevant.”

What a relief!  I just got my summer back.  It would still take time to prepare for seven more presentations, but if I could speak extemporaneously, practicing from an outline instead of a script, and include my own material, then not only would it be easier, but I would sound more conversational.

As I was basking in relief, the next speaker started. He had not memorized the material.  I’m not sure if he had even had tried to learn it.  He actually read the script, occasionally looking up, which sometimes caused him to lose his place. This approach, the reading approach, was not going to work at all in front of a teen audience (not in front of any audience, really).

The third speaker didn’t memorize as I had done and he didn’t read the script, either.  He gave an impromptu version, loosely following the outline, but missing some of the key points.  He was clearly not familiar with the material, although he was easy to listen to.

The fourth speaker hit it out of the ball park.  He had discovered the key: Familiarize. Don’t memorize.

Familiarize. Don’t memorize.

If I could familiarize myself with the material, and know it well, but not memorize it, I knew would connect with the teens. I could speak from the heart and really look into their eyes, not at my imaginary script. Of course, certain phrases were still expressed the same way every time and once in a while parts were impromptu, unplanned comments inspired by the moment.

To get away from sounding scripted, I learned I needed to practice from keywords, or an outline.  I had to resist the writer’s temptation to say it exactly as I wrote it. If I did, I sounded “stilted.”

I sounded stilted because I didn’t write the way I spoke.  When we speak, we used shorter sentences and shorter words.  We use contractions. We use an active voice (e.g., Chelsie wore an itsy bitsy, polka dot bikini) vs. a passive voice (“The itsy bitsy, polka dot bikini was worn by Chelsie).

To speak with passion, don’t memorize, don’t read and don’t speak completely off-the-cuff, instead . . .

Familiarize. Don’t Memorize.

Not Just the Facts, Ma’am

Just the Facts

“I just want to get the facts, ma’am,” Joe Friday (actor Jack Webb) famously implored when questioning women in the old TV police show, Dragnet.

Joe Friday might have just wanted the facts, but your audience wants more.

Sure, they want to know your material, but they also want to know you. They want to connect with you as a human being and they want to connect with your material because it matters to them on an emotional level. Even the hard-nosed business types and the highly educated professionals.

Emotions connect us and drive us in a way that dry logic can’t. Logic will get hijacked by emotions almost every time. If you can connect with your audience on an emotional level, they can be more easily moved to agree with your supporting logic.

I once had a presentation client, I’ll call “Susan” who was preparing to present a 3 hour seminar on a topic in psychology. Well, the first thing Susan and I talked about was the need for at least one break for the audience. No matter how fascinating your topic nor how engaging you are as a speaker, people need a “bio” break! That concept was an easy sell.

The second issue was the huge amount of content she wanted to cover, using a PowerPoint presentation that truly was “Death by PowerPoint,” with slide after slide of bullet points, long paragraphs, and charts that were impossibly complicated.  Getting her to put less on her slides was a bit more difficult than getting her to allow for a “bio” break, but she relented when reflecting on her own experiences having to sit through such visual torture.

What was more difficult was getting Susan to try to engage the participants emotionally, through stories, especially personal stories.


Susan, like many other presenters felt that stories were “fluff.”

“I have a lot of material to cover and telling stories just doesn’t seem professional. Stories are fluff.”

After a little more digging, she also admitted that telling personal stories was uncomfortable.

“I would feel too vulnerable showing emotion in a story. And I might make other people uncomfortable.”

BINGO. She was afraid of being judged for having emotion or recreating an experience that would invoke emotions in others. Her professional veneer might get tarnished by emotion in the telling of a personal story.

But she was willing to try.

I asked her to tell me WHY her topic was important, what difference did it make in the world. I asked her how she first realized the importance. And . . . she told me a story, a story about an experience with a client that forever changed her practice. As she told the story, she was animated and engaging. I could put myself in her place and feel her emotions.

“That’s your story! That’s the story you start with,” I told her.

We worked on the story, and the rest of her presentation, to add some additional touch points (and some audience activities . . . 3 hours is a long time to keep people’s attention without switching it up).

I called her a few days after her presentation to ask how it went, and she seemed almost amazed at how well it went.

“When I opened with that story, I had them all spellbound. It was an incredible experience to connect with them. Some even had tears in their eyes. I made my topic important and relevant to them with that story. It wasn’t fluff.”

Don’t be afraid to connect with your audience by being authentically vulnerable. Tell personal stories that evoke emotion. And tell those stories with passion!

Not afraid, but passionate.

15 Concise Strategies for Improved Communication (Book)

15 Concise Strategies for Communication

“Whether you are a beginner or have reached a roadblock, this book speaks to busy professionals who want concise communication strategies for work, public speaking, and social situations.  These strategies include how to manage stress, conquer fear, communicate like a leader, sell, listen, evaluate and think critically.”

So starts the back cover of 15 Concise Strategies for Improved Communication, a collaborative effort of 12 authors, all members of PowerTalk Toastmasters. Yes, I am a contributing author, with a short chapter, “Virtually Speaking: Presenting Online.”

Not only can this book provide you some nuggets of communication insight, it can also serve as inspiration for the budding author within you.

The driving force behind the book, Jewel Pickert, had never published a book, and taking on the task of trying to coordinate a collaborative effort added an additional layer of challenge. I told her right up front that I wasn’t a fan of books with several authors, but having self-published a few times, I provided some initial direction, and she shepherded the process, learning many skills along the way.

It was a win-win situation! The contributing authors are now published authors, if they weren’t before. Jewel, with her new-found experience, already has three additional books in the works! Having published works will increase professional credibility, and might garner some income, both from book sales and from possible speaking engagements.

Get the book and consider how you might either collaborate or write your own!


The App I Use in Almost Every Presentation

The app I use in almost every presentation is . . . a clock app.

All it does is tell the time in really BIG digits. That’s all I want it to do.

When you are presenting as a keynote speaker, or doing a breakout session or a workshop, the ending time of the presentation is what is critical, not the overall time. Sometimes a session starts late, or a speaker before you may run long and you have less than the planned time to speak. You don’t want to be the one who messes up the schedule!

Many rooms do not have a clock, and many organizations do not provide a timer. Of course, you could go “old school” and place a watch on the lectern or a nearby table, but why not just use your phone?

In order to end on time, or a couple of minutes early, I keep an eye on the clock and adjust my content and the audience activities as I speak.  If I am running fast, I might allow the audience more time to interact with each other, or I might add in a  story. Conversely, I can take out somethings if my time is compressed.

The app I use is Big Clock HD (iPhones and iPads only).  Although it costs $0.99, it is well worth the small investment! I’d love to hear what non-iPhone users use! (I did a search and found some Android apps such as Giant Clock).

Big Digital Clock App

If you prefer a count-down clock, one app that I have used for practicing is Presentation Clock (pClock), also a $0.99 app on iTunes. The numbers countdown and change colors at times you choose (for example, Green at 30:00, Yellow at 5:00, Red at 0:00).

Never go over (or terribly under) your time again!

Presentation Skills from a Tour Guide in Mexico

Chichen Itza in Waterlogue

I just returned from a vacation to Cancun, Mexico, where I enjoyed fun, food and . . . learning presentation skills from unlikely sources: timeshare sellers, tour promoters, street vendors, restaurant servers and a tour guide!

It was the tour guide at the Mayan ruins, Chichen Itza (the picture above, using an app called Waterlogue) that most impressed me.

Tour Guide at Chichen Itza

He impressed me with three techniques: creative use of a prop, demonstration, and audience participation.

Creative use of a prop

He used a closed umbrella, held high above his head, to guide us through the crowds at the start of the tour.  He then used the umbrella in the traditional way, open, to shade himself from the sun.  But, when we got to an open, sandy area, he used the tip of the umbrella to draw diagrams in the sand, giving visual explanation, along with using some laminated photos.


At certain points, across from the temple and in an ancient ball court, the tour guide demonstrated acoustic effects.  He clapped and the echo sounded like the call of the quetzal bird.  I had never heard anything like it!  Everyone on the tour was spellbound.

Audience participation

Taking the demonstration a step further, he instructed us to all clap together on the count of three, so that we could participate in the acoustic effect.  Later, at another location in the ruins, one with many columns, he drew an X in the sand with his umbrella’s tip and asked a woman to stand on the X and look 45 degrees in either direction and tell how many columns she saw.  Because the columns were so perfectly aligned, at the 45 degree angles, they lined up so that she only saw the front columns.  We all could imagine ourselves standing in her spot, and later, many of us did.

I also imagined that this tour guide was going to get some good tips!

In the tourist areas of Mexico, tour guides and others who make their living off of tips learn quickly what techniques are most effective to elicit the best tips.  They learn how to work their audience.

Maybe you won’t get tips as a speaker,but perhaps you will get recognition, product sales and referrals, so pay attention when you are in the audience and see what engages and enthralls you–learn where ever you are!

Gift Books for Presenters

book recommendations for public speaking

With the holidays fast approaching, you may want to gift yourself a book on public speaking skills.  I’ve read many books on public speaking, but only a few more than once. Consider adding to your library (physical or ebook) one of the 5 books on public speaking that I own and have read more than once:

1. Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln: 21 Powerful Secrets of History’s Greatest Speakers by James C. Humes.  This book is packed with practical tips (like the “power pause”) gleaned from leaders in history.

2. World Class Speaking: The Ultimate Guide to Presenting, Marketing and Profiting like a Champion by Craig Valentine and Mitch Meyerson.  By reading this book, an aspiring professional speaker can learn both speech creation  and speech marketing techniques.

3. Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte. This is a gorgeous book that beckons you to study its concepts with engaging visuals and examples.  I found the section on the Hero’s Journey to be most useful as it made me consider the audience as the hero and me as the guide.

4. Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds. This is the book that inspired me to have simple, clear and beautiful PowerPoint slides.

5. Cat Got Your Tongue? Powerful Public Speaking Skills and Presentation Strategies for Confident Communication or, How to Create the Purrfect Speech by Diane Windingland. Yes. I wrote this book and I still refer to it!  As a special gift to you, the ebook version is free through Saturday.  Get it now!

Gift yourself a book on public speaking!



Tailoring a Keynote: Making the Material Connect

People in your audiences want to feel special, to feel that you understand them and their needs.  You can create a presentation that connects with a particular audience by tailoring your existing content to connect with them.

Would you like to “look behind the curtain” and see my process?  It may give you some ideas that you can use for your own presentations.

I recently prepared a “new” presentation that I am giving this week to an association of people in veterinarian medicine.

Several months ago a representative of the organization called me to inquire if I might be available to give the closing keynote at their conference.  She had found me online and watched my demo video.  We discussed the date, what they were looking for as a closing keynote, info on the audience size and composition, and which of my programs would be a good fit.  She agreed to my fee (it was a local conference, so there would be no travel or hotel costs).

I sent her a pre-program questionnaire to confirm details and to obtain additional information on issues the audience faced.  This included getting contact information for a few people so that I could have brief chats with them on their issues as related to my topic.

As it turned out, the program she had chosen was one of the ones I hadn’t actually written.  It was just on my website to see if anyone was interested in it.  Well, now someone was, so I needed to prepare something.  I already knew that a lot of the content would be recycled from content in other presentations.

A month prior to the conference, I called 3 audience members and took notes on the interviews.  I made post-it note highlights and saved them to use in planning later.

Two weeks prior to the conference, I had a keynote planning session.

First I reviewed the pre-program questionnaire and interview notes:

Pre-program questionnaire and interviews


Then, I went to the conference website and printed out the brochure, which first gave me an overview of my place in the conference, and what other people were speaking on:

Conference program

I noted that I actually knew the person giving the opening keynote, and was familiar with his topic.  I also noted the topics for 5 tracks for the breakout sessions (Regulatory, Marketing, Finance & Technology, Customer Service, and Human Resources).  I was planning on attending the entire conference and I was the last speaker.  As the last speaker, I probably could tie everything together, with a simple statement along the lines of “as you deal with challenges with regulatory issues, marketing . . . you can build greater success with better communication in all those areas.”

At the website, I also noted the theme was “Building Blocks of Success” and the color scheme was gray background with orange accents.  I could use that information to tailor the visuals.

Then, I laid it all out . . .

information summaryThe “Facts for Customization” were the post-it note highlights from the interviews with audience members and from the pre-program questionnaire.  I wouldn’t use many of them directly, but they informed my content.

The “Promised Content and Handout:”  I had sent a description of the program (which I confirmed was the description in the brochure) and a handout before I had actually worked on the presentation.  They needed the handout early, so I determined the 4 supporting points I would make and put those on the handout.  My presentation would have to follow the handout.

The “Source of Material:”  almost all of the content came from my most recent book, The Respect Virus.

“Previous Presentations:” I wouldn’t be starting from scratch!  For 3 of my 4 main points, I had already developed presentation modules that I used in previous presentations.

I had the broad outline, and even some of the specifics for my presentation.  Now I had to think about customization.  The first place to customize was the opening.  I decided to open with 2 short stories about my experiences with veterinarians and communication (which put them in a positive light).  I dug up the relevant pet pictures:

Rat on girl's head


Then I needed to make a promise.  My promise was simple:  If you have better conversations with clients and staff you can have better business with less stress.

I extended on the promise by asking a few “Do you want . . .” questions and then transitioned to previewing the 4 points, using the theme of “Building Blocks of Success” by using the variation, “Building Blocks of Communication,” animating the blocks to come in one at a time:

Building blocks of communicationAnother area that I customized was in an audience activity, in which I have the audience work in groups of 2 or 3 applying conversational techniques to cases relevant to their work:

Moving from Gridlock to Dialogue

And then, of course, I had to practice!  Although, my slot is an hour, I really can only have about 45 minutes of material, as a little time will be taken with an introduction and also at the end, the organizers want a few minutes to wrap up and give away some gift cards.  As part of my practice, I made a one-page sheet with notes . . . just in case the PowerPoint didn’t work!

This is my typical process for preparing for a presentation.  What is most helpful for you?  What do you do differently?



6 Ways to Use a Flip Chart in Training

Flip charts are a fun, engaging way to provide participant involvement that leads to understanding and retention.

Last week I attended a two-day Bob Pike Group “Train-the-Trainer” Boot Camp seminar and learned several easy ways to incorporate the use of a flip chart in training.  Six of my favorites were:

  • Ground Rules
  • Road Map Agenda
  • “Ask It” Basket
  • Dot Voting
  • Idea Collection
  • Window Pane Grid

Ground Rules–the class ground rules were literally taped to the ground.  Participants couldn’t miss them walking in:

Ground rules

Road Map Agenda–the agenda was presented as a road map:

road map

 “Ask It” Basket–Off-topic questions could be written on sticky notes and placed in the “Ask It” Basket to be addressed later, so as not to interrupt the concept development:

Ask it basket

Dot Voting–Near the start of the seminar, each person got 4 dot stickers to indicate which 4 topics were of greatest interest:

dot voteIdea Collection:  This was also an activity to help form a learning group.  Each table of participants formed a group that came up with a group name and tag line.  Then, from the concepts we had covered, we each contributed our 2-3 favorite concepts to write on sticky notes: Flip chart idea collectorWindow Pane Grid–This technique of using a graphic plus a key word works as a priming mechanism for the brain to recall stored information.  In this particular exercise, the table groups each came up with their own icon to go with the key words and then each table group looked at other groups’ icons. If another group’s icon was deemed to be better, the group could copy it and replace their earlier icon with the new one. Using sticky notes made it easy to change out the icons:


While a flip chart may not work for very large groups (Bob Pike has successfully used them for groups of 80-100 people), they are a versatile resource in training–just add sticky notes and markers (scented Mr. Sketch markers are pleasant to use).

Flip out for flip charts at your next training!

The Secret Memory Booster in Public Speaking

Focus gesture

Would you like to know one technique that can help you better:

  1. learn your presentation?
  2. remember your presentation?
  3. facilitate your audience’s learning and recall of your material?


The powerful technique is to use body movement and gestures.

Perhaps you may recall learning gestures to a song as a child, or helping children learn something by associating movement and gestures with words.  This technique isn’t just for children!

Gestures help you access memory and language and help your audience understand and remember your message.

Numerous studies have shown a positive effect in using gestures to encode memories (get them into your memory), to retrieve memories (to recall them) and to decode information for the listener (i.e. help your audience understand the information). Spontaneous, unplanned gestures can enhance your language production, but specific, defining gestures can enhance memory.

At a presentation on public speaking skills that I gave last week, my speech had 3 supporting points, each with a specific, defining gesture:

  1. Focus on your audience (I looked through a circular “thumb and finger” gesture–as shown in the picture above)
  1. Internalize, don’t memorize your material (This was a three-part gesture.  For the word “internalize,” I held my hand over my heart and for the word, “don’t,” I used that same hand, along with my other hand to make brief, horizontal cutting gestures and then for “memorize,” I tapped my temple while shaking my head).
  1. Tell a story (for this phrase, I held my hands like an open book).

Then, in the conclusion, I used each gesture again as I touched on the 3 points.

The biggest value in using these gestures was that they really cemented the 3 points in MY memory. They were the mental hooks on which I hung my speech.

A note of caution: the gesture, even if planned, must flow naturally as you speak.  Practice and video yourself.

Try using a specific, defining gesture for each of your points in your next speech to make your message memorable to your audience and yourself!