Archive for the ‘FAQs’ Category

FAQ: About Q&A’s [Part 2]

FAQIn an earlier post on how to handle Q&A sessions, I warned that they can be risky, and I offered a couple of suggestions on how to cope.  But the fact remains,  if you finish with Q&A’s, the last words the audience hears from you will be out of your control. And as Angela DeFinis, a true industry expert in professional speaking, once told me, “That last question can lead your whole speech down a rat hole.”

No executive wants that to happen.

How to prevent it? DeFinis has a great suggestion: Be sure to reserve a little time for yourself after answering those pesky questions. Then step to the podium and deliver your final, final remarks. The last words your audience hears will be the ones you want.

FAQ: About Q&A’s [Part 1]

FAQWhen executives are invited to speak, they are usually asked to take questions after the formal presentation. Q&A sessions are always a little risky, because they are out of your control. You decide exactly what you want say in your speech, but what listeners wants to ask is (usually) their choice. The good news is you can manage that risk and make Q&A time work for you, but only if you prepare. In the next couple blogs, I’ll offer some thoughts on how to do that.

The most obvious way to prepare is to work with staff or friends to try to anticipate possible questions (especially tough ones), come up with good answers, and then learn those answers cold. If you’re writing for an executive, make sure he or she is never “too busy” for that kind of advance work. If you’re the exec, make time to prepare.

At the same time, keep in mind that sharing your knowledge or opinions is only one of the goals of answering audience questions. Another important goal is showing that you’re a leader, someone audience members should take seriously. The best way to do that is to stay calm under pressure.

That’s true even if you’re asked a question that stumps you. Mark Ein, CEO of Venturehouse Group, LLC, a long-time Washington, DC investor and entrepreneur told me the way to handle a stumper is to keep cool, acknowledge that the question is a good one, you don’t have answer right now and but will give it more thought.

Above all, don’t fake it! I guarantee that giving a phony answer will come back to haunt you.

FAQ: How Should I End My Speech?

FAQTo paraphrase Lee Iacocca, the object of every speech is to motivate, which makes the last words your audience hears from you critically important.

Here are some ways to end with a bang, not a whimper. (You’ll find more in my book, Words that Mean Success.)

Bookend. One of the classic and most effective ways to end a speech is to circle back to the beginning of the presentation at the end. President Obama does this a lot.

Do Something out of the Ordinary. Look for an unusual quote (I found one from daredevil Evel Knievel), a little known event in history, a case of strange bed fellows, etc. Use anything that makes the audience sit up and take notice. One warning: be very careful about using humor. (You’ve heard this from me before.) In particular, it is very risky to end with a joke.

T.A.P. (Talk About People). Try to end your speech by humanizing the larger point you’re making. Find an evocative story or vignette that involves an actual human being doing something. The more specific you can be (“Engineer John Smith is on the front line of the data security revolution…”) the better.

From the Back to Basics Panel: 12 Public Speaking Tips

clear empty podiumThe Arlington Chamber of Commerce panel, Back to Basics: The Art of the Spoken Word, was a lot of fun and a great success. We had a sell-out crowd. Moderator Jan Day Gravel and my fellow panelists Karen Bate, Jan Fox, and Charles Greene III did a great job, mixing insights, humor (and in Charles’ case) even a little magic.

There is an excellent article about the panel on the Arlington Chamber’s blog. In includes  our Top 12 Tips for Successful Public Speaking:

      1. A great speech starts with research.

     2. In presentations, 80% of success is knowing your audience. 

     3. In public speaking, you probably don’t need a major overhaul, just a few small tweaks.

     4.  Make your presentations social media friendly: use short tweet bites!

     5. The ability to use the spoken word effectively is valuable-it helps you grow your business and gain more clients.

     6. Focus on PRACTICE more than content: A speech should be like breathing. With practice you don’t have to think-it just comes out.

     7. Stand up straight! Even a little thing like changing your posture can improve your presentations.

     8. Incorporate video into presentations to mix things up, add energy, inject humor and give speaker a short break.

     9. As Lee Iaccoca said, “A good speech, like a good novel, is constructed around conflict.”

     10. Let’s go to the tape! Watching a recording of your presentation is a great way to learn and get better.

     11. Use your voice to draw people in by varying your tone, pauses and volume.

     12. Public speaking can be scary. Practice, practice, practice is the best way to overcome that fear.

FAQ: What are the key elements of a story?

FAQSince I almost always advise executives to “use fewer statistics and tell more stories,” I’m often asked what makes a good story. Fair question. To answer it, I’ve decided to steal from one of the best, Amy Saidman, Artistic Executive Director at SpeakeasyDC. She gave a great presentation at NSA-DC recently. To paraphrase her a bit, she said the key elements of a story are:

  1. Set-up
  2. Inciting Incident (What event, action throws the speaker’s life out of balance?)
  3. Desire (What’s at stake?)
  4. Rising Action (Obstacles that stand in the way, actions taken to overcome them)
  5. Climax (What choice did the speaker make?)
  6. Resolution (what broader conclusion did the speaker draw from the story?)

She also stressed one other element, which I think is critically important: use vivid language that paints a picture. The more details you can mention that help an audience visualize the story, the better.