Make Key Ideas Pop Like a Pub Poster

Nothing cuts to the chase faster than a pub food poster. After all, it has exactly one aim: to whet your appetite as a means of getting to your wallet. So, a good graphic designer isn’t going to let anything come between your eyes and your understanding of what the poster is all about.

Clarity is every bit as important when you write a speech or presentation. But, it’s harder to achieve. Speakers generally feel obligated to say more to an audience than the wings are good and they’re cheap: so buy ‘em. Plus, the topics and issues they want to communicate are usually more complex. The trick then is to make key points pop — so they’ll stand out and stick in listeners’ minds.

Use these three tips to do just that. Read More...

Rock Your Next Talk By Answering 5 "Essential" ?s

Convocation speakers can rarely resist the temptation to dispense advice to the gowned graduates in front of them. But, every once in a while, the ideas they share strike a chord with the world at large. Take the example of James Ryan, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He urged his listeners to stop and ask themselves five "essential" questions. The answers, he promised, would help them achieve success and fulfillment in life. Then, communications blogger Garr Reynolds wrote about Ryan's thought provoking questions, bringing them to a wider audience. Reading the article on Reynold's blog Presentation Zen, it occurred to me that answering the questions could also make a speech or presentation successful and fulfilling to the audience.

Here are the questions and some suggestions about how to apply them to a talk. Read More...

Think "Proud & Productive" When Writing & Delivering Employee Recognition Speeches

Summer may be a quiet time in many workplaces, but it’s also a time of great transition. People wrap up projects before they head off on vacation. Some leave to take on new assignments. Others retire. So it’s no surprise that managers and supervisors often find themselves on the hook to write and deliver employee recognition speeches. How well they do depends on the approach they take.

A tempting path is to string together some “nice” things to say about the person and leave it at that. But, with a bit of thought and planning, a speech to honour an employee can be a more meaningful experience for both the honouree and the audience.

The place to start is by looking at the occasion as an opportunity to reinforce employee engagement. Read More...

3 Presentation Tips From The Dragons' Den

“Hello Dragons.”  Does that opening line sound familiar?  If you’ve watched the CBC television show Dragons’ Den over the past 10 seasons you’ve heard countless inventors, entrepreneurs and dreamers utter those words. What comes next is the pitch each of them hopes will convince at least one Dragon to invest in their idea or product. But, as many discover, getting a deal is far from easy. The Dragons are tough to impress. They’ve all built enterprises from scratch and they know what it takes to succeed. Tracie Tighe, who has been the show’s executive producer since the start, says the people who make it on air get advice on how to hone their pitches to appeal to the Dragons. But, once the cameras start rolling, what happens next is up to them.  Read More...

3 Attention-Getting Tips From Copywriters

One of the biggest challenges to communicating with people is getting and holding their attention. Speech givers have an especially tough time. They have to shape their content to connect with and engage listeners in the here and now. Otherwise, their message falls on deaf ears. Copywriters live and die by their ability to win attention through words. Here are three copywriting tips you can use to keep your audience with you. Read More...

3 Tips for Writing a Tribute Speech

This is the season when people wrap up projects, move on to new assignments and start retirement. And that means awards ceremonies, farewell parties, and, of course, tribute speeches. If you’re asked to write or deliver a tribute this summer, keep in mind that it’s an opportunity not only to praise the recipient for their achievement or service, but to inspire the people around them. Follow these three tips to make your words memorable and meaningful. Read More...

The Blackstone: Home of the "Smoke-Filled Room"

You've no doubt heard the term "smoke-filled room" before. And you can probably conjure up a picture of one in your mind, filled with insiders secretly deciding the fate of a political contest. As the tour guide on Chicago's Big Bus will tell you (and Wikipedia will confirm) the term was first used to describe the atmosphere inside the Blackstone Hotel on Michigan Avenue. While smoking inside hotels throughout North America is becoming more and more rare, a "smoke filled room" lives on as a metaphor for a secret political gathering. I wonder if the Blackstone has put a plaque on the wall? Read More...

3 Tips for Managing Your Deadlines

“I love deadlines,” Douglas Adams, the late author of the sci-fi classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy once admitted. ”I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” And fly by they do. Writers’ lives are ruled by deadlines. Speech and presentation writers are no exception. When the clock strikes the appointed hour and the speaker steps onto the podium, he or she has to have a script in hand. 
 
A New Yorker cartoon does a good job of conveying the “life and death” feel of deadlines. In the picture, a man looks up from his computer to see the grim reaper and says: “Thank goodness you’re here. I can’t get anything done without a deadline.” Few people would welcome the harbinger of death with the same enthusiasm, but all of us can benefit from managing our deadlines. So, with that goal or ghoul in mind (sorry I couldn’t resist the pun) here are three tips. Read More...

3 Tips for Talking Tech to Non-Techies

Geeks do it. Bankers do it. Even scientists and engineers do it. And I’m not talking about “falling in love”. These groups are often accused of speaking a lingo the rest of us can't understand. By lapsing into insider talk, tech terms and acronyms it's easy for a speaker, no matter what their background, to leave an audience in the dark.

Think of a topic you know intimately. Now imagine trying to explain it to someone who knows nothing about it. To paraphrase the psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker, we're often unconscious of what we know and assume other people know it as well. That’s a sure recipe for poor communication.

You can make technical topics clear to non-experts, especially if you're willing to address your subject from the point of view of the listener. Follow the tips below for great results. Read More...

3 Ways To Stand Out From The Crowd

Ok, maybe wearing a zebra-patterned outfit like balloon-launch coordinators do is too much to ask. But if you deliver speeches or presentations - or write for someone who does - face the facts: it takes some effort to stand out from the crowd. Every day thousands of people step on to the podium to speak. Yet, only a fraction of the talks they give are memorable or move audiences to action. Follow the tips below to raise the chances that you’ll engage your listeners and get them onside. Read More...

Lift Your Speechwriting Skills To New Heights

I’m leading two speechwriting workshops back to back that will give participants the skills they need to tackle virtually any speech assignment and meet the toughest deadlines. Join me for Write Out Loud: Strategic Speechwriting Skills and Value Beyond Words: Advanced Speechwriting Skills. Read More...