Tip: The value of blogging

Here’s a brief video from National Speakers Association member Gerard Braud, CSP, who explains why frequent blogging is key for any professional speaker or subject expert. It’s an invaluable form of content marketing and SEO, so clients find you online.

The proof for Gerard is that a Google search on his area of expertise “crisis communications expert” lists him at the top of the organic results (immediately following the paid ads)
Gerard Braud Google Search Result

This has also been my own experience with searches on “high tech speechwriter”, “technology speechwriter” or “Silicon Valley speechwriter”.

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One-word program evaluations

Writing in the excellent weekly newsletter SpeakerNetNews, Ron Shapiro, a speaker and consultant in career development, education and learning, shares an effective technique for collecting feedback from attendees at his programs.

He notes that while doing an extensive survey might be nice, it would consume a disproportionate amount of time in short programs. Instead, he asks participants to summarize the program in one word on business card stock which he distributes. He then makes this feedback into a word cloud which he sends to the sponsors displays on his website.

One Word pogram eval

This is a creative, and fun, way to capture the essence of his programs and serves to show how the participants felt afterwards.

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NSA logo risks

National Speakers Association Logo

Writing in today’s Washington Post Emily Wax-Thibodeaux highlights the oddball and usual gifts found in the gift shops of federal agencies like the DEA, CIA, Centers for Disease Control and National Security Agency. The tchotchkes on sale include NASA’s freeze-dried Neapolitan ice cream with a three-year shelf life; an inflatable NASA astronaut; sheets of $2 bills from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing; and a gavel-shaped pencil with a two-headed eraser from the Supreme Court.

The article does warn that some agencies also have safety concerns. After the Sept. 11 attacks, shops have been more careful about selling clothing with the insignia of national security and law enforcement agencies. These items could turn the wearer into a target of anti-American violence.

National Security Agency logo

At the NSA gift shop, near the National Cryptologic Museum, store manager Robin Bunch said she often thinks about this. So she typed up a warning and taped it to the wall:

“Although owning an NSA logo item does not necessarily imply that one is an NSA employee, it can raise a level of interest. Consider for example where the item will be worn/used and take into account local threat conditions.”

This might be something the members of the National Speakers Association (the other NSA, y’know, the one that SPEAKS, not LISTENS) might want to keep in mind. While our logo bears absolutely no resemblance to the other NSA and features a hand-help microphone with a cord, there are professional speakers who wear shirts, caps and bags they buy at conferences with the logo on. A past president of the Northern California chapter once told me he was boarding a flight wearing a golf shirt with an NSA logo when a guy in horn-rimmed glasses gave him a knowing wink and said “Remember back when we weren’t even able to tell people where we worked…”

It’s a case of Caveat emptor quid emeris aut circumdatio. Loosely translated: Buyer beware of wearing what you buy.

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TuneIn Radio: A great platform for podcasts

TuneIn Radio

TuneIn is a popular app available for iOS and Android devices. It allows anyone to listen to radio stations from around the world. With over 50 million monthly active users, TuneIn lets people listen to the world’s sports, news, talk, and music from wherever they are. TuneIn has over 100,000 radio stations and more than four million on-demand podcasts streaming from every continent.

I’ve built a preliminary TuneIn playlist that includes current episodes of the Iain Anderson Show from BBC Radio Scotland, Late Junction from BBC Radio 3, and A Way with Words from NPR. In the future I expect to browse for music programs to add from Australia, Thailand and Ireland. Any suggestions?

Podcasting on TuneIn

While my Professionally Speaking podcast is available on iTunes in the U.S., I don’t believe this is case outside of America. So I was pleased to discover that TuneIn allows anyone with a podcast feed to upload their material so that it is carried on this platform with a global reach. I’ve now added Professionally Speaking to TuneIn.

If you have a podcast that you’d like featured on TuneIn simply fill in this form.

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Podcasting comes of age


It’s been over seven years since I recorded my first podcast and six years since I posted my Podcasting 101 tutorial. I’ve been encouraged by the growing popularity of podcasts and my own playlist allows me to listen to the BBC, NPR and experts such as Wendy Hanson and Phil McKinney.

However, it wasn’t until I read the cover story in the Financial Times Weekend Life & Arts section this week that I realized the extent to which podcasting has come of age. Sarah Gordon and Shannon Bond report on The Serial , a new weekly podcast that has attracts over 2.2 million listeners. The series has been downloaded over 20 million times.

The Serial debuted in October 2014 and is a spinoff of the NPR radio program This American Life. The episodes are about the 1999 murder of a Baltimore high school student for which the woman’s ex-boyfriend is serving a life sentence.

The podcast resonates with the millennial generation and has generated ancillary blogs, YouTube videos and meetup groups of listeners.

The FT quotes Edison Research statistics stating that 39 million Americans, 15% of the over-12 population, listened to a podcast last month. Brands are increasingly interested in podcasts and popular ones like The Serial (sponsored by MailChimp) are profitable.

Whenever I tell people about podcasting, I’m asked “How do you make money?”. My answer is that you and I can’t. The average podcaster can burnish their professional reputation and promote interest in topics and people that interest them. However, just as with amateur vs. professional sports, just because you might enjoy hitting a ball around at the weekend for fun, it does not mean you’re at the same level as a professional producer from This American Life who hits one out of the park.

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Magnifying the Impact of a Speech with Social Media

Last week I was in the UK visiting family and took the opportunity to present to the Northwest Region of the Professional Speaking Association.

Over 20 people attended at the conference center in Manchester. Thanks to Patricia Fripp for the introduction to the group, and to Eilidh Milnes and Steve Houghton-Burnett for arranging the visit.

I was struck by the energy and enthusiasm of everyone I met, who exhibit many of the characteristics that make professional speakers some of the most interesting people on the planet to hang out with. Surprisingly, there were members in the UK who spoke on similar topics to those in the Northern California Chapter of the NSA.

In the afternoon I conducted a master class on video and audio. I discussed:

  • Simple techniques to record, edit and publish audio podcasts
  • Sources of audio available to speakers
  • Which of the three types of podcasts is right for you
  • Why to embrace video as a face-to-face alternative
  • How to master video: from the television studio to your iPhone
  • Making a six-figure income from video training materials
  • Lights! Camera! Action! Create simple compelling videos that audiences will watch.

In the evening I gave a presentation on magnifying the impact of a speech with social media. I reviewed how to augment the power of a speech before, during and after the presentation using social media tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and blogs. All offer exciting and effective ways to boost mindshare — when used correctly. The online audience for a talk can be many times the size of, and as important as, the audience in the room. Many speakers take advantage of social media to promote their programs — I shared ways to use social media as a research tool before the talk, poll and interact with the audience during the talk, and re-purpose content via audio and video afterwards.

Take a look at these edited highlights:

The resource page for the event has links to example videos, slides, reference material and more.

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Celebrating Toastmasters 90th anniversary

Toastmasters 90th Anniversary Toastmasters International has come a long way since founder Ralph C. Smedley held the first meeting in the basement of a YMCA in Santa Ana, California on October 22, 1924.

As society has changed, so as Toastmasters. In contrast to the white males who formed the original club, diversity is evident at any Toastmasters meeting today. What a difference nine decades makes! But to be fair, back in 1924 women in America had only won the right to vote four years earlier. However, it took almost 50 years for the idea that women could speak in public to sink in–membership was not opened to women until 1973. Indeed, Helen Blanchard, the first woman President of the organization, joined prior to 1973 under the name “Homer Blanchard”. The President at the time told her ‘You didn’t do too bad – for a woman.’ (I swear, you couldn’t make this sort of thing up!)

First TM Club Meeting

Since 1924, more than four million men and women have become more confident speakers and leaders through the Toastmasters experience.

Smedley’s idea of turning young business leaders into “would-be orators” has led to a thriving global organization with membership exceeding 313,000 in more than 14,650 clubs in 126 countries. The first club outside the United States was formed in Southport, England.

I’m a big proponent of anyone who wants to improve their public speaking and leadership skills joining a local Toastmasters club, even if you’re a woman!

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Professional Speaking Association

Professional Speaking Association
In a couple of weeks time I’ll be in the UK visiting family and I’ve been invited to address the North West Region of the Professional Speaking Association (PSA) which is the UK equivalent of the National Speakers Association.

Since I grew up in North West England, this is a return to my roots.

On Wednesday November 12th I’ll be delivering an afternoon Masterclass on podcasting and video tools speakers can use to promote a speaking business. In the evening I’ll be giving a presentation on magnifying the impact of a speech before, during and after the event using social media.

With that in mind, the Twitter hashtag for the event is #psanwnov.

Here’s the resource page for the presentations. I make no claim for the authenticity of my north of England accent at the end of the preview video. After all, I’ve not lived there for 40 years.

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Essential tools for visual communications

David Sibbet
This is the second of a two-part report on the September 27th meeting of Northern California Chapter of the National Speakers Association. On Saturday we heard from two communications experts: Speechwriter Pete Weissman and visual thinking expert David Sibbet. This posting is a summary of David’s material.

David SibbetDavid Sibbet is President and founder of The Grove Consultants International, leaders in visually based services and tools that enable organization, teams and individuals to successfully envision and implement innovation and change.

He is author of the best-selling Visual Leadership book series:

Visual MeetingsVisual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity. David’s first book in the series looks at how to use visualization to support a cycle of learning and implementation in meetings. Starting with imagination, moving to engagement, thinking and enactment–it is written for anyone who runs meetings. No special graphics skills are needed to make these methods pay off.

Visual teamsVisual Teams: Graphic Tools for Commitment, Innovation, and High Performance. This builds on the meetings book and explores how a team can use visual methods throughout their work. It suggests we can gain by working like designers–using prototypes, interaction and visualization.

Visual leadersVisual Leaders: New Tools for Visioning, Management, and Organization Change. This is a guide for leaders interested in increasing their own visual literacy. There’s a valuable section on how visual tools can accelerate organizational change and enable people to think of the total organization as a system while working on the parts.

Visual meeting facilitation

Drawing on content from his books (pun intended!) David shared how he was there at the start of the meeting facilitation industry in the 1970′s with people like Michael Doyle and David Strauss. Together, they built the field of group facilitation, community visioning, collaborative problem solving, and the development and management of task-oriented groups and teams.

Putting poster-making together with journalism led to David becoming a visual interpreter of meetings. Together with Evert Lindquist he developed a map to the world of visualization:

Lindquist/Sibbet Data Visualization Map

Graphic Facilitation

Graphic recorders facilitate meetings by interactively documenting a group’s conversation on flip charts, large poster paper, graphic templates, murals, and other media. This allows everyone in the room to see and understand the flow of dialog, decisions and agreements.

The result is a crisp summary of a lengthy meeting on a single page, as in this example from an architectural firm:

DLR Vision

(Click to enlarge)

Visuals spark the imagination

Words and images connect in valuable ways. Having a picture on the wall engages the audience with a greater degree of participation. The human brain builds more meaning into a slightly “fuzzy” diagram vs. crisp clip art. Giving people enough to go on, without total clarity, encourages people to really pay attention. Using sticky notes and group drawings as part of a presentation or facilitated meeting enables the audience to see connections, find solutions, and understand the big picture.

Beyond the spoken word

Da Vinci Helicopter SketchSibbet’s work challenges us, as speakers and speechwriters, to go beyond the written or spoken word and explore new frontiers in communication. A visual language integrates words, images and shapes into a single communication unit. Geniuses such as Leonardo da Vinci have used visual language as a basic tool. Why not unleash your genius and incorporate visualization into your next presentation?

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Speechwriting secrets for professional speakers

Weissman's Wordsmith Formula
This is the first of a two-part report on the September 27th meeting of Northern California Chapter of the National Speakers Association. On Saturday we heard from two communications experts: Speechwriter Pete Weissman and visual thinking expert David Sibbet. This posting is a summary of Pete’s material.

Pete WeissmanAward-winning speechwriter Pete Weissman revealed how he helps CEOs and political leaders win over audiences. His methods help sharpen a speakers’ ideas so they are remembered, repeated, reported, and re-tweeted. Disclaimer: I’ve known Pete for over six years since we met at the Ragan Speechwriters Conference in DC. He’s one of the best freelance speechwriters there is.

8 tools to add color to your speech

Pete shared some tried and tested rhetorical tools that add color to a speech.

Sound bites

These are short catchy phrases that someone takes away from your presentation. Speechwriters should aim for just one sound bite per speech that will be remembered, repeated, reported and re-tweeted. Pete’s “Weissman Wordsmith Formula” to write a sound bite is to

  • Summarize your main point, or what happened.
  • Analyze what it means. what’s the impact? What’s next? What’s the speakers’ point of view?
  • Add some spark in terms of conflict, emotion, or drama.
  • Make it sing by using the 8 tools (above).

An example would be Joseph Bradley of Cisco Systems who was quoted in The Wall Street Journal, January 6, 2014 “Big data is worth absolutely nothing without big judgment.”

How to engage your audience

We heard of three ways that a speaker can deliver content that engages an audience:

  1. Use a chorus – as in any pop song, repeating key ideas unifies the theme of the speech between different sections.
  2. Signpost – especially in PowerPoint slides, don’t have literal titles, but keep people involved with subtle signposts.
  3. Dress up your forks – meaning, highlight and embellish alternatives, so there is a sharper contrast between options in your presentation.

How to write a home run speech

Baseball diamondPete shared a simple yet powerful speechwriting secret to plan the structure of a speech. He posed four essential questions you need to answer before proceeding, Babe Ruth style, to the next step.

  1. What is the audience’s biggest problem? – Ask the meeting organizers:
    • Why is this group meeting?
    • What keeps them up at night?
    • What frustrates them?

    The goal is for the speaker to be aware of the pain-point the audience has and play back the terms they use in the speech

  2. What is the unique point of view that only you can provide?What’s your life experience, challenges, education that gives you a unique perspective only you can can offer the audience?
  3. What do you want the audience to know that is new?This is the take-away message, the core of your talk.
  4. How can you connect your topic to a current trend or news item?In order to reach beyond the conference, connect your topic to larger issues. That is one way to secure press coverage or social media traction.

These four steps can be woven into any speech, and reminded me of Aristotle’s classic speech persuasion trilogy. Starting with the introduction, then transitioning to the justification for listening to you (ethos), giving an emotionally charged take-away (pathos) buttressed by a logical argument (logos).

Pete deferred a discussion on how to speak like a thought leader, referring us to the recording of his presentation at the 2014 NSA conference on this topic and his SpeakerNetNews teleseminar on strategies for becoming a thought leader.

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