Lost tape archives

Blank on BlankMy experience of blogging is that it’s like waiting for a the bus — no material for days on end and then a whole bunch comes along at once.

Following my post yesterday on the Portland State University lost speech tapes, I found an article about the Blank on Blank project that curates lost tapes of interviews with famous people, mostly in the entertainment field.

I’ve enjoyed listening to Larry King’s hilarious story about his late night escapades as a young radio DJ, Janis Joplin on rejection, John Lennon on love, and Pete Seeger on writing ‘We Shall Overcome’.

These tapes are a great source of entertaining stories.

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Portland State University speech archive

PSU SpeakersA Portland State University archivist has uncovered a box of reel-to-reel recordings of campus speeches by figures such as LSD advocate Timothy Leary, Robert F. Kennedy speaking a few short weeks before his assassination, Nobel prize-winner Linus Pauling speaking on the effects of radioactive fallout a few months before the Cuban Missile crisis, and poet Allan Ginsberg.

The recordings had been stored in a warehouse after the format went out of use. Luckily, most were in nearly flawless condition and sound as clear as the day they were recorded. PSU has converted 275 hours of tape recordings to digital format. They are available on the web, starting with the most recent recordings from 1979 (when I briefly lived in Portland, but unfortunately did not attend any of these events) all the way back to the earliest from 1952. (Ignore the message on the website stating “This document is currently not available here” and scroll down to the image of the reel-to-reel tape deck to listen.)

These are full-length recordings and include the speaker introduction and audience questions. They are a fascinating and useful resource for speechwriters looking for content on a variety of topics as well as a record of cultural change in America from the 1950′s to the 1970′s.

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Guest Posting: Communicating at Virgin Atlantic, by Adam Schair

Adam SchairAdam Schair is Vice President, Human Resources Communications at Thomson Reuters in New York and a member of the Thomson Reuters Internal Communication & Engagement Council. He manages a team of human resources communications specialists. This post appears with his express permission.

Fortune Favors the Bold: Communicating at Virgin Atlantic, by Adam Schair

Virgin AdI recently went to a highly entertaining and informative IABC Westfair talk given by Jenna Lloyd, Virgin Atlantic Marketing Director, about communications at a company borne from Richard Branson’s innovative mind, created with the sole purpose of shaking up an industry. Although Jenna focused on external communications, she made it clear that Virgin’s internal and external communications are treated with the same tone and goal of challenging the status quo and creating the unexpected.

In fact, Jenna’s talk was called “Flying in the Face of Ordinary to create a communication culture.” Flying in the Face of Ordinary was not just the name of her talk, but Virgin Atlantic’s mantra; it’s north star. They call it FITFOO, and she recounted that in their many brainstorming meetings, when a person suggests an idea that is on the more mundane side, someone will inevitably say, “That idea is not FITFOO enough.”

The following is a summary of the five points of her talk, which were categorized by paraphrased quotes from Richard Branson himself. This all may make you slightly jealous of the Virgin Atlantic communications culture, but I saw it also as presenting an exciting challenge as we try to create an innovative culture (of course, I doubt we will be offering rides to outer space any time soon).

1. Being Brave is Part of our DNA

Jenna started with a quote from Simon Sinek, who some of you may know wrote the book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and is a frequent TED talker, “People don’t buy what you do, but why you do it.”

She said that this quote really captured the essence of how they approach communications at Virgin Atlantic. To prove it, she then read from their principles, for lack of a better term, which contains phrases as:

  • We zig while others zag
  • We’re the antidote to dull
  • We do red where other’s do beige
  • And Richard Branson’s employment philosophy: Don’t just play the game; change it for good.

She took us through some their campaigns to illustrate how they not only use the unexpected to prove a point, but, going back to Simon Sinek’s quote, demonstrated the “why” as well as the “what.” Here are links to a few, if you want to read more:

2. Don’t think what’s the cheapest way to do it or what’s the fastest way to do it; think what’s the most amazing way to do it

When they make decisions at Virgin Atlantic, they do with the mission to make people feel good. It is simple in concept, difficult in practice. But many of their campaigns live up to this idea. Here are a few:

  • Twitter rewards campaign: the team scoured twitter and found people who made statements indicating they were having a “grey day.” They would then send a team to cheer the person up.
  • Anti-Mundane Squad: The team would identify mundane experiences (e.g., the local DMV) and brighten it up by bringing red velvet cupcakes.
  • No Ordinary Park Bench: The replaced a park bench with an experience similar to sitting in first class on the airline.

Of course, all of this was picked up in social media and went viral. An interesting (and I guess consistent) point about Virgin Atlantic and social media is that when they measure success, they measure sentiment first and reach second. Usually, it is the other way around.

Jenna summed it up in a quote from Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

3. Screw it, just do it

That is a direct Richard Branson quote, and he says it a lot. It speaks to creating a culture where there is no fear of failure when you try new things. It also speaks to the tongue-in-cheek tone that pervades their communications.

London EyeThe great example of this was when British Airways landed what seemed to be a marketing coup of being the primary sponsor of the London Eye. The story goes that at first, they had difficulty in raising the giant Ferris wheel into place. When Richard Branson heard this news, without hesitation, he hired a blimp to fly over the scene of the construction. I’ll let the picture (left) tell the rest of the story.

In this case, as Jenna quoted, “Fortune favors the brave.”

4. The way you treat your employees is the way they’ll treat your customers

I cannot imagine any of my communications colleagues would argue with this statement. Richard Branson is a strong believer in this, and that is why they try to treat their employees like rock stars. They make the work environment fun, and encourage a healthy work/life balance.

One example Jenna gave of creating a bit of glamour and fun was how they transformed their employee newsletter for their crew into a glossy magazine called Runway that provides glamour tips.

5. Bring it to the customer

Many of you have seen pictures of Richard Branson serving drinks on his airline. That iconic picture speaks to Virgin Atlantic’s Philosophy. They are always thinking of ways to proactively make their customers feel good. Examples Jenna gave included giving their customers that had to fly from home on Valentine’s Day a little gift to cheer them up, and sending cocktail shakers on Admin’s Day to executive administrators who book travel for their executives. The cocktail shakers came with a note that said, “thanks for keeping things together, now shake things up!” I am sure a lot of executives began finding themselves booked on a lot more Virgin Atlantic flights after that.

Parting advice

Jenna concluded by summarizing her learnings at Virgin Atlantic in the following seven points:

  1. Know your story; know your why
  2. Challenge convention
  3. Make people feel amazing
  4. Opportunity favors the bold
  5. Treat employees like customers
  6. Surprise & delight people
  7. Have fun

Every one of those points applies just as much to internal as external communications. Let’s shake things up!

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Cultivating Stage Presence with The Second Circle

Second Circle Book CoverA highlight of last week’s PSA World Speechwriters Conference was hearing Edmée Tuyl describe differences in energy speakers bring to the podium. She outlined the concept of three circles of energy that comes from master speech and acting coach Patsy Rodenburg who speaks about the importance of cultivating what she calls “Second Circle energy” as a way for speakers to use their energy to be present (in “the present”) with an audience for maximum impact. Briefly:

  • First Circle energy is inward-looking, drawing energy toward the self, typical of introverted and nervous speakers.
  • Third Circle energy is forced out, toward the world in general, typical of bombastic and opinionated speakers.
  • Second Circle energy is focused on the audience, in relationship, taking in and giving out. This connection with the audience is characterized in theater as having “stage presence”. Presence that allows your message to survive.

Her book The Second Circle: How to Use Positive Energy for Success in Every Situation expands on the ideas she presents in this short video:

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NY Speechwriters Conference Debrief 3 of 3

Part threeIn this third and final edited highlight of the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable conference call from the PSA World Conference, I give a summary of Bob Lehrman’s break out featuring a conversation with David Kusnet who was Clinton’s speechwriter. Katie Gray shares admiration for General David Petraeus’s intellect.

Brian Jenner shares Eric Schnure’s tips on writing for roasts and why it’s important to “singe not burn” and ways jokes can be reused. Schnure recommended writers do a “joke dump” and write 10 jokes for every one used. A good way to structure a joke is by associating a person or place in the news with a different issue. CEOs can get away with humor if they introduce it by saying “As Jon Stewart said…”.

To hear the audio, click on the podcast icon below.

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NY Speechwriters Conference Debrief 2 of 3

Part TwoIn this second edited highlight from the call, social media director Jerry Weinstein reviews postings to the tweet-stream under the #PSAworld hashtag. He discusses the unusual nature of the opening keynote that took people out of their intellect into a bodily appreciation of what is involved in the act of speaking. He comments on the “Know your Worth” breakout session with Fletcher Dean, Julie Conway and Harry Kruglik and the relevance of salary surveys in journalism which might be valuable for speechwriters to initiate. Likewise, in a parallel breakout, Gotham Ghostwriters founder Dan Gerstein addressed the value of freelancers sharing rate information.

Duarte Design content developer Katie Gray was attending her first ever speechwriters conference and was impressed by the variety and cross-section of presentations. She liked the mixed media content of Mette Højen’s presentation on the ways speechwriters can command audiences exactly like an orchestra conductor.

David Murray explains why he chose an experiential opening keynote from Edmée Tuyl. He explains that it’s easy to find tips on the basics of speechwriting which he assumed most attendees at this event knew. He wanted to encourage people to share experiences, with someone who talked about speechwriting on a holistic basis. He discusses the closing keynote by General David Petraeus was himself a speechwriter for General John Galvin, Supreme Commander of European Forces. Petraeus demanded the right to be present every time the General spoke and to be in the car on the way to the event to get the boss fired up before stepping onto the podium.

To hear the audio, click on the podcast icon below.

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NY Speechwriters Conference Debrief 1 of 3: David Murray

Part OneThe Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable conference call took place May 21 at the end of the first day of the Professional Speechwriters Association (PSA) World Conference held May 22-23 at New York University.

There were 9 callers online from around the country. The Roundtable is open to anyone who is interested in speechwriting in Silicon Valley, not just those of us who live and work there. The call lasted 45 minutes, and I’ve divided the audio recording into three segments.

In this first of three edited highlights David Murray, the organizer of the Conference, discusses the mood of the event. In contrast to the 200-person Ragan Speechwriters Conference in Washington DC which attracts generalists, this event was targeted specifically at practicing professional speechwriters—over 50 attendees came from Europe, USA and Canada. David gives a preview of the review sessions that will occur on the final day of the event. He concludes by describing advantages of becoming a member of the newly formed Professional Speechwriters Association.

Brian Jenner of the UK Speechwriters Guild attended the 2008 Ragan Conference and saw first-hand the differences between British and American approaches to speechwriting and was inspired to found the UK Speechwriters Guild. The interest of other Europeans led to the European Speechwriters Network holding their first conference in 2013. He claims that this event has made him realize the differences in style between speechwriters and the “hippie tendencies” of some people who make their living as speechwriters!

To hear the audio, click on the podcast icon below.

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Hollywood Secrets Help Professional Speakers

Over 100 attendees at Saturday’s meeting of Northern California Chapter of the National Speakers Association heard the benefits of taking a Hollywood approach to writing and delivering presentations in order to elicit emotion in an audience.

FrippHall of Fame keynote speaker and executive speech coach Patricia Fripp joined forces with Hollywood story expert (and Will Smith’s script consultant) Michael Hauge.

Fripp is the founder of our Chapter and a leading authority in the world of professional speaking.

Michael HaugeHauge is a story and script consultant, author and lecturer who works with writers and filmmakers on their screenplays, novels, movies and television projects. He has coached writers, producers, stars and directors on projects for Will Smith, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Kirsten Dunst, Charlize Theron and Morgan Freeman, as well as for every major studio and network.

Michael also works extensively with Hollywood executives, producers, agents and managers, helping them sharpen their story and development skills, and improving their companies’ abilities to recognize powerful material, employ advanced principles of structure, character arc and theme, skillfully communicate a story’s strengths and weaknesses, and work effectively with writers to achieve a commercially successful screenplay. His skills and experience were immediately applicable to the professional speakers and speechwriters in the room on Saturday.

Fripp introduced the program by saying it is difficult to be creative in isolation, hence the collaboration between her and Michael that enables their creativity to flourish. She stated that to ensure your audience remembers your presentation you must present information in a way that it connects with them by following a basic story outline formula: When? Where? Who? What Happened?

Michale Hauge elaborated on this by outlining:

The 10 Essential Elements of Every Great Story

  1. A Hero. The story must have a hero or heroine. This main character drives the story and has the potential to be heroic. The hero’s desire propels the action.
  2. The Setup. A slice of everyday life before anything heroic happens. It shows how the hero is stuck before they begin the “forward movement” of the story. This is where the writer builds sympathy for the hero in the minds of the audience, which leads to:
  3. Empathy. A psychological connection between your audience and the protagonist before you reveal the hero’s flaws. The audience lives through the characters and empathize with them by seeing the highs and lows they deal with in their lives. Hauge shared three ways to create empathy:
    1. Create sympathy. Make them the victim of an undeserved event.
    2. Put the hero in jeopardy. In Raiders of the Lost Ark Indiana Jones escapes a host of threats at the start of the movie that have nothing to do with the rest of the plot, but develop empathy for Jones.
    3. Make the character likeable, kind, good-hearted, generous.
  4. Opportunity. When something happens that has never happened before and gets the story moving.
  5. New Situation. To allow the hero to pursue a visible goal they want to accomplish.
  6. Outer motivation. Or the visible goal that the hero wants to accomplish by the end of the story. This goal must be within the hero’s power to accomplish. As a story coach, Hauge asks “What’s this story about?” In the movie, Gravity, the heroine’s goal was, “I want to get home.” This outer motivation should be easily expressed in a single sentence. The clearer you can be about the visible goal of the hero, the better.
  7. Growing Conflict. A great story provides obstacles for the hero to overcome. To elicit emotion, you must amplify conflict. Whatever goal the hero wants to accomplish, you must convince the reader it’s impossible and then find a way to achieve it.
  8. Climax. At this point of the story the hero confronts the biggest obstacle that must resolve their visible goal. But it’s not the end of the story.
  9. Transformation. The hero must transform to achieve their outer motivation. In a character arc, this transformation is the point when they go from living in fear to living courageously. This element reveals the story’s theme and reveals universal meaning, which increases emotion and story depth. The visible goal can only be achieved if the character can overcome the state of being stuck.
  10. Aftermath. The final element shows the hero living a new life after completing the journey.

Hauge gave each of us a bookmark with these elements listed.

Michael Hauge Bookmark

Soundbites

All great presenters speak in easily Tweetable soundbites. Here’s some I noted:

Michael Hauge:

  • Real life is not properly structured
  • Stories must be true, but they don’t have to be factual.
  • Audiences don’t want to hear that you became courageous; they want to hear how it happened.
  • Whatever you want your audience to learn and do, you must have the hero of your story learn and do.
  • Stories give your audience a direct experience of whatever it is you want your speech to convey.

Frippicisms:

  • Freeze your gestures while the audience laughs or applauds.
  • Deliver stories that happened in the past in the past tense.
  • The audience does not see how you feel, only what you project.
  • You are speaking for the audience of your audience.

Resources

Hauge illustrated his concepts with movie references. He started the morning by sharing a clip from the movie “Hitch”. If you’ve never seen this romantic comedy, take a look:

Hauge’s books on the craft of screenwriting and storytelling are best sellers in the genre. I went home with two of his books and an audio CD:

Fripp has launched a Virtual Training website where you can immerse yourself in her speech and sales presentation coaching 24/7.

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Same Same … But Different

SameA recent discussion in the National Speaker’s Association Facebook Group addresses the problem of the lack of originality in many speeches. The discussion was prompted by a LinkedIn article by Richard A. Moran which highlights the repetitive use of the same case studies by speakers at business events. The author requests:

Let’s broaden the conversation and stop talking about the same companies – usually Apple, Zappos and Southwest Airlines.

Instead of the same old stuff he wants:

…to be motivated, not sorry I don’t work somewhere else. I want to know how I can improve, not how a brilliant leader did it a few years ago somewhere else. And, I want genuine advice that might include some practical tips about how to be better and what pitfalls to avoid.

Professional speakers and speechwriters are in total agreement. Their comments show they understand the importance of delivering content that is unique, different, and ensures their message will be heard above the noise. (Since the NSA Group is a closed one, the names of the contributors have been removed.)

  1. The problem is a global one – same old stories, same old case studies, same old messages. We need to use our own stories, our own research, and if we must talk about companies, use current news stories.
  2. It’s best to tell stories from our own experience. It’s what I do in my own talks and it’s what I encourage executives to do when I’m helping them with their speeches. Not only are those stories going to be original, the speaker is going to be more connected to them.
  3. Speakers must bring us a very different idea or way of doing something we’ve not heard before. I can honestly say few exist per my life’s experience. The same ingredients in a food processor still yield pretty much the same outcome–no matter what order you add them. Real Thought Leaders make us think long after the book, podcast or event. I believe great speeches have a beginning, a middle and a definitive end. I also know there are three presentations happening simultaneously: the one you planned, the one you executed and (most importantly) the one they take away. Our own stories and the lessons we share keep our content fresh and unique, as long as we continue to study how to connect the dots in a way the audience most relates to.
  4. As a speech writer for others, I want to take their experiences and create a speech based on them, not on what can be found in college business textbooks. Not all case studies are as they seem.
  5. We live in an age where everything changes quickly — we have so many examples to share.
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Guest Posting: How Not to Introduce a Speaker, by Adam Grant

Adam GrantAdam Grant is Wharton’s youngest full professor and single highest-rated teacher. He has been recognized as one of BusinessWeek’s favorite professors, one of the world’s 40 best business professors under 40, and one of Malcolm Gladwell’s favorite social science writers. Previously, he was a record-setting advertising director at Let’s Go Publications, an All-American springboard diver, and a professional magician. Adam is the author of Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. This post was first published on his LinkedIn Influencer page and appears here with his express permission.

How Not to Introduce a Speaker

by Adam Grant

When I attend a presentation, the first thing that captures my attention isn’t the speaker or the material. It’s the person who introduces the speaker.

After giving a few hundred speeches in the past year, I’ve been struck by the variety of ways that different people introduce the same speaker. Some introductions energize me and seem to leave the audience excited to hear from me. Other introductions inadvertently make it more difficult to deliver a successful speech.

In my experience, the best introductions avoid three mistakes:

1. Don’t read the speaker’s biography. Much of the time, introducers walk up to the stage with a written biography, and proceed to read it verbatim. This is a mistake for several reasons. First, it’s boring. Bios are usually written to inform, not fascinate. Second, a typical bio is far too long to hold the audience’s attention. The goal is to pique the audience’s curiosity, not cover the speaker’s entire life history.

Third, even if introducers are armed with a short, punchy bio, they usually trip up when trying to read the words. This often happens to me when I’ve tried to read introductory remarks, leaving me mystified: why can I give a 45-minute speech from memory without missing a beat, but stumble through reading a few words that are right in front of me? (One explanation comes from classic research by psychologist Robert Zajonc: the presence of an audience enhances performance for well-learned tasks, but hinders performance when we’re novices. We’re used to reading silently, not out loud in front of large groups, and the arousal interferes with fluent processing.)

Instead of reading a bio, I like it when introducers highlight a grand total of three or four interesting tidbits about the speaker. Here’s one of the best intros I’ve ever received: “Adam Grant is a Wharton professor who has advised leaders ranging from Google to Goldman Sachs to the U.S. Air Force. He’s the author of Give and Take, and he used to perform as a magician.”

2. Don’t give away the speaker’s content. On numerous occasions, during the introduction, I’ve watched presenters turn white as a sheet. The introducer steals the thunder of the speech by giving away a punch line, a surprise, or a memorable quote. This has happened to me several times recently. One of my most requested speeches introduces three styles of interaction: givers (helpful), takers (selfish), and matchers (fair). I poll the audience: which group is least successful, and which is most successful?

Then, I reveal an unexpected conclusion from a decade of research across multiple industries. Givers are more likely to finish last… but they’re also more likely to finish first. It was a bummer when the CEO of a Fortune 500 company introduced me by announcing that I would be speaking about how good guys finish first.

Goodbye, element of surprise! Goodnight, audience interaction. Hello, pivot!

My rule here is clear: introducers should avoid the content altogether. It’s fine to explain the relevance of the talk to the audience. Just tell us the purpose of the presentation, or the topic of the speech, without divulging the message or the conclusion. You can also create a curiosity gap, as described by Chip and Dan Heath inMade to Stick. Pose a question that the speaker might answer, and the audience will be intrigued to find out more. For my speech, it works well when introducers simply say, “Today’s speaker will challenge our assumptions about what drives success” or “Adam will ask, ‘Is giving the secret to getting ahead?’”

3. Don’t make the speaker sound superhuman. I’m thrilled to share this idea with you, because the next paragraph is going to be the most profound argument you’ll read this week.

Many introducers wax poetic in superlatives about the speaker. This is a good idea in principle: extensive evidence shows that whether the speaker is a teacher or a leader, high expectations can fuel self-fulfilling prophecies. When the introducer emphasizes what’s impressive about the speaker, audience members are more likely to be smiling at the edge of their seats. This can enhance the speaker’s confidence and reduce self-doubt, and then a virtuous cycle ensues. The audience is more likely to engage with her insights and laugh at her jokes, further enhancing the speaker’s confidence and ability to command attention. If something goes wrong, the audience will be more forgiving.

Yet an over-the-top setup can lead to what social scientists call a self-negating or self-disconfirming prophecy. In a nutshell, if the audience’s expectations are too high, there’s a greater risk of a gap between anticipation and reality. If the introduction is too glowing—like my tongue-in-cheek opening sentence above—the speaker will have a hard time living up to it. To paraphrase one of my mentors, Jane Dutton:

It’s better if the introducer under-promises, and the speaker over-delivers, than vice-versa.

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