A good speech is one that you deliver in your own voice.
A good speechwriter can capture your voice, but only if:
(a) We can hear you talk unscripted using the lingo you would use in the speech – i.e. I need to hear you in a meeting if it’s a work speech. I need to hear you talk to your kids if it’s a personal, family toast.
(b) You are honest with yourself and with us as to what works for you – i.e. I can give you a great turn of phrase, but if you don’t understand it, don’t buy into it, or get tongue-tied saying it, then it won’t work.
In the end, the speech or toast is your message.
Even if you write the toast or speech and capture the message and tone you like on paper, it is imperative that you read your words aloud…over and over and over…and do so in front of an audience of at least one. This will confirm that you can say the words and let you see the reaction and make sure it’s the one you want!
Written and spoken words are different…words that look different on paper, can sound the same aloud, confusing the audience…beware the tongue-twister and the double entendre.
Anyone out there have an example of a good speech gone bad because of one misplaced or mispronounced word?
Toasts are just mini speeches – speeches that will linger forever in the memory of those being toasted.
When people come to me for help with their toasts – usually wedding toasts by the father-of-the-bride/groom – they are really asking for help with focusing their thoughts than in actually coming up with the right words.
Most of you fretting over a simple, short toast for a big family event are really fretting over how you will get a lifetime of thoughts down to 2-3 minutes. You can start by focusing on the basic 5-part format (see May 2012).
Write 1-2 sentences for the first and fifth parts (welcome and congrats), and only 2-3 sentences each for the second, third and fourth parts. Oh, and keep the sentences to 20 words if possible, but no more than 30 words. You don’t want to gasp for air mid-sentence!
It sounds hard to get a lifetime into 500 words or less, but this exercise will force you to choose each word carefully…as a result, your words will have more impact and emotion – filler words dilute the message.
If you still need help, you know where to find me.
“I’m sorry I wrote such a long letter. I did not have the time to write a short one.”
In the past year, I have worked with four fathers of the bride and/or groom to cull down the millions of ideas running through their head. They need a 2-minute toast and have more than 2 hours of material.
We started by laying out the basic structure of a toast:
· Vignette about daughter/son
· Vignette about early days with new spouse
· Vignette about couple
· Good luck to the couple
Then, I lower the boom: You have to say it all in about 400 words.
“Yes, we can – together!”
You would be amazed what you can say in 2-3 minutes (around 400-500 words), when you focus.
If you’ve been called upon to write a toast, what was the hardest part?
Last week, I asked where the inspirational speakers were…going through my notes, I found the 5 Cs of Success by Vince Poscente…he was one amazing speaker…he wanted to be an Olympic athlete, so he randomly chose speed skiing where their motto is “Safety Last” and he broke international records in the trials.
*Spoiler alert: He came in last in the actual games, but he was a part of them!*
“Our life is full of defining moments, pivotal choices,” according to Poscente.
The author of the easy read “The Ant & The Elephant,” Poscente, jumped on chairs, yelled, encouraged audience participation and gave the following advice at a talk earlier this year (April 16, 2011 – another archive goodie)…it may not be as exciting in writing as it was in person…but it bears repeating:
C#1 – Clarity of Vision: Pay attention to your subconscious (elephant) not just conscious (ant) mind. “Don’t just see it, but feel your vision and what it means…If a thought gives you a physical reaction – pay attention.”
C#2 – Commitment: Have the courage to decide. “Doubt is loudest at 99-percent commitment, and it goes away at 100 percent.”
C#3 – Consistency: Focus on your goal – use reminders around the house to refocus you and create a consistent strategy to reach your goal. What change do you want to affect?
“The second you own the solution, you innovate.”
Most people look to their competitors and do what they are not doing…they fill a void…not a bad path, but not a bold one either. Poscente says, “You should do what the competition is not willing to do…That way, you can even tell the competition what you are doing and they won’t do it, because it is what they are not willing to do.”
C#4 – Confidence: Results plummet through the gap between “fear” and “confidence,” so don’t go there…be confident…reinforce to your subconscious that your goal is real and true.
C#5 – Control: This is basically creating a routine. You can reinforce your confidence with a controlled routine of consistent steps toward the clear goal to which you are committed. (See, I got all the Cs in there!)
Poscente wraps up by saying that you will have skeptics as you move toward your goals…just make sure your subconscious isn’t one of them…work to marry your ant and your elephant…the rest of the world will follow.
“When skeptics see results, they will become your biggest supporters.”
Last night, someone asked me who I thought was the best speaker alive today.
During my long, uncomfortable pause, he said any political candidates? Any CEOs?
Not only could I not think of a politician or CEO, all I could think about were the ones who used to be great, but we just don’t hear from them anymore…even President Obama, who talks everywhere these days, seems to have lost his luster…I think Candidate Obama inspired us to work together to make change and create a better world…President Obama seems to spend an inordinate amount of time on the defensive, practically whining about the details and the things that didn’t happen…where’s the vision for what could and should happen?
The Republican candidates make me cringe with Perry and his preacherman tenor, and Romney arguing with the hecklers in the crowd…Michelle Bachman stands out as someone who can hold her own…she’s measured and direct, but I still wouldn’t say she’s “inspirational.” Someone suggested that Hilary Clinton could fill the void…while she’s grown into an awesome speaker on international issues where she can deliver a pointed, direct message to a small audience…though, again, I’m not inspired…impressed, but not inspired…and I don’t think she can translate it back to the bigger stage where she must talk to all people about all things…we have no Ronald Reagan or John F. Kennedy that I can see.
Even the business guys – Jack Welch, Warren Buffet, Peter Drucker, Bill Gates – seem to be missing from the picture (except for Warren’s recent oped stating he thinks he needs to be taxed more, to which I replied, if you ‘d like to read it)…Steve Jobs announces way cool technology, but I wouldn’t say his speech is inspirational…his technology inspires his techie tribe (me included) to try new things, but he doesn’t talk big or inspire with global leadership.
Authors Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin and others have inspirational messages in their writings…I’ve also had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Gladwell speak…entertaining and interesting, but still – no inspiration…
Our religious leaders, well there’s Joel Olsteen…he can be inspirational, but he’s not exactly in the national dialogue…where’s our Martin Luther King or even the Rev Jesse Jackson or Oral Roberts…Billy Graham advised Presidents and corporate titans, but now we don’t see any big religious leaders with ecumenical teachings.
So where is it?
Heck…what is it?
I think what I’m looking for is someone to paint a rosier picture…a picture of what could be and what will be if we wait long enough or work hard enough…I’ve had my fill of scare tactics and low expectations.
Anyone out there know of a great inspirational speaker?
Maybe we can get him on YouTube
As someone who was exclusively an elephant hunter, I am proud to announce that I’ve learned to hunt rabbits…in fact, I’ve even landed a few – so today, I eat!