National Speakers Association Pro-Track: February Meeting – The Fire Sermon

Fundamental to every professional speaker is the topic they speak on, about which they are informed, articulate, passionate. It’s one of their eight competencies. Good speakers are on fire with a passion for their topic. As The Buddha said:

The ear is on fire; sounds are on fire; . . . the nose is on fire; odors are on fire; . . . the tongue is on fire; tastes are on fire; . . . the body is on fire; things tangible are on fire; . . . the mind is on fire; ideas are on fire; . . . mind-consciousness is on fire; impressions received by the mind are on fire; and whatever sensation, pleasant, unpleasant, or indifferent, originates in dependence on impressions received by the mind, that also is on fire.

And with what are these on fire?

With the fire of passion, say I, with the fire of hatred, with the fire of infatuation; with birth, old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair are they on fire.

Saturday found 30 of us wanna-be pro speakers kindling the first flames this passion at the second NSA/NC sponsored Pro-Track training. Before the day was over we had been give the opportunity to choose our topic; outline it; make it interesting; market it and deliver it with style and panache. We were directed in this by two awesome ladies whose passions burned, as they say, as bright as a thousand sun’s.

Francine Ward: Topic Development

Francine Ward, has a topic that grabs you and won’t let go. An ex-hooker, junkie and high-school drop-out who walked through her fear and came out on the other side. Now a Georgetown educated lawyer, successful entrepreneur, twice published author, philanthropist, and loving wife. She speaks left-brained topics: trademark and contract law, where she’s a resource to the best speakers in the NSA. She speaks on right-brained topics: motivational speeches based on her unique biography.

We were given the benefit of her experience. She mapped a clear set of guidelines on how to develop a topic. It’s a journey that starts with an evaluation of what cements you as a credible, marketable expert who people would pay to listen to. She took us through in-depth considerations about ways to research our topic (my fave: ask the audience what they want to hear you speak on!). She ended with a slew of practical tips n’ tricks on marketing our expertise. We heard what works for her. We learned how she turns her knowledge into products. Check out her web site. Have your credit card ready.

Angela DeFinis: Presentation Skills

Angela DeFinis

I wonder how many in the room felt a pang of regret for not having taken Pro-Track last year? Those who did were lucky enough have had Angela as a classmate. She’s been coaching Silicon Valley executives in delivery skills for over twenty years. She stands out in the somewhat crowded field of speech coaching for one very simple reason – she delivers results. We saw this in the brief time she was able to work with the Pro-Trackers who gave their showcase presentations. She worked miracles.

Her litany of things an effective public speaker needs to be mindful of include eye contact, posture, facial expression, purposeful movement, inflection, enunciation and rate of speech. The goal: to become unconsciously competent in the key areas of visual image, vocal and verbal skills.

Most speakers overlook the fact that only 7% of a message is conveyed by the words they use; 55% of the message is conveyed by their face and body signals and 38% by their vocal characteristics. The good news for those of us who are paid the big bucks to write those words and create the content for corporate speeches is that most executives are clueless about this. They focus on content almost exclusively. The bad news is that most executives are clueless about this. The audience listens as the audience does: looking more, hearing less.

There’s little point in blogging about Angela’s class. It has to be experienced. If you think you need a speech coach, hire her. If you don’t think you need a speech coach, get a clue.

Her parting gift was an awesome booklist to sink our teeth into:

7 Steps to Fearless Speaking by Lilyan Wilder
Give Your Speech, Change the World: How to Move Your Audience to Action by Nick Morgan
Grammar Smart by Princeton Review
How to Prepare, Stage, & Deliver Winning Presentations by Thomas Leech
Improving Your Storytelling by Doug Lipman
Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands: How to Do Business in Sixty Countries by Terri Morrison, Wayne A. Conaway, George A. Borden
Nonverbal Communication in Human Interaction by Mark L. Knapp, Judith A. Hall
Nonverbal Communication by Albert Mehrabian
Power Talk: Using Language to Build Authority and Influence by Sarah Myers McGinty
Powerful Communication Skills: How to Communicate With Confidence by Colleen McKenna
Presentations That Persuade and Motivate by Harvard Business School Press
Say It Right: A Guide To Effective Oral Business Presentations by Garth A. Hanson
Silent Messages by Albert Mehrabian
Speaking Skills for Business Careers by Dennis Becker, Paula Borkum Becker
The New Talkpower: The Mind Body Way to Speak Without Fear by Natalie Rogers
The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling by Annette Simmons
Toastmaster’s International Guide to Successful Speaking: Overcoming Your Fears, Winning over Your Audience, Building Your Business & Career by Jeff Slutsky, Michael Aun, Toastmasters International
Working the Room: How to Move People to Action through Audience-Centered Speaking by Nick Morgan
Women Seen and Heard: Lessons Learned from Successful Speakers by Lois, Ph.D. Phillips, Anita Perez Ferguson

On leaving the meeting I walked out into the February evening. The wind crossed the brown land, unheard. I spoke neither loud nor long. But at my back in a cold blast I hear the rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.

2 Comments so far
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[…] I was given an action item at Saturday’s Pro-Track meeting. I have to find out what information is of most value to people planning to do business overseas. […]

As someone who has done a fair amount of business in Eastern Europe, I can say that some of the main information that investors are looking for is the following:

1. reliable services
2. to know how educated the local resources are (example: much of Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria have very educated individuals, but none of them know how to type). Think about that. You will have a training curve of at least 3 months to get a staff up to speed typing 30+ words per minute. Nice to know in advance
3. The local laws and how they impact a foreign business owner
4. What a foreigner can and can not own
5. Banking restrictions/etc.
6. Necessary documents to form a company.

I just wanted to throw in my 2 cents as we have personally been through this.


Mary Stevens
credit after bankrupty

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