Creative Speech Writing

Narrative Exposition Will Make Your Speech Come Alive

Narrative Exposition is the use of important background information within a story; for example, information about the setting, characters’ backstories, prior events, and historical context.  Without it, speaker’s life story and important business lessons come off like a series of uninspired bullet points instead of creating a compelling lecture meant to hold the attention of an audience and inspire change.

Case in Point

I recently worked a speaker with a naturally great stage presence and incredible story of success. Unfortunately, he was saddled with a terrible script (written by a consultant) which he confidently delivered. After the talk he asked, on a scale of 1 to 10 how he had done, I gave him a solid 4 – explaining there was no joy in his talk. In my opinion, other than hearing his rags to riches story, the audience was left without a clear understanding of how his journey of clearing those obstacles made his life rich – other than making him rich. Because the audience never got to really know the other people in his life, and understand his experiences both good and bad, the speech did nothing for the audience to help motivate them or overcome their fear of failure. It offered the audience nothing in the way of help in refocusing their attention. No suggestions on how to change their mindset, or how to concentrate on the things in life that would help move them forward to achieve their goals.

Not a great first meeting with a potential client. But I’ve never been know to play well with others when it come to the business of public speaking.

He eventually sent me the original script – the one written by a well-known professional business writer. I immediately called him with a revised presentation score of 6, generously adding 2 extra points for the courage and willpower he showed trying to make sense of such a dry, uninspired document.

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Public Speaking Advice

Powerful Speechwriting – Telling a Great Story

Powerful speechwriting is a precise combination of science and art, heavily relying on structure, behavior and passion. Using blocks to structure a speech is the key to presenting a successful talk. In simple terms, a block represents a self-contained story within a story. Think of each block like a chapter of a book, magazine article, or a scene in a movie. Each block is a story with a beginning, middle and end and, more importantly, a block has a reason for being. A block makes a memorable point AND reinforces the central theme of your talk.

A block should run 3, 4 even 5 minutes. But remember, audiences don’t like and won’t pay attention to boring. So the bigger the block the better it has to be.

According to a recent scientific study, which surveyed 2,000 participants, and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms, the average adult’s attention span, what they call Selective Sustained Attention (or Focused Attention) is approximately 5 minutes — and that the good news. The bad news is that our Transient Attention (our short-term response to stimuli, that temporarily attracts or distracts our attention) can be as short as 8 seconds.

In simple terms, each block represents a self-contained story within a story. Think of each block like a chapter of a book, a magazine article, a scene in a movie. Each block is a story with a beginning, middle and end. More importantly, a block has a reason for being. A block makes a memorable point AND reinforces the central theme of your talk.

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Public Speaking Advice

Corporate Meeting Planner Power Play

INC. Magazine is in the process of updating their archives by adding various articles of interest to their readers. The following article by Dennis Barker, originally published by Aquent Magazine on June 1, 1999 , includes an interview about an after-dinner corporate address I gave as Mark Twain in the late-eighties.

by Dennis Barker

The big client, menacing, stands up like De Niro in the baseball bat scene from The Untouchables. He walks down to the end of the conference table, where the consultant sits twitching nervously, and picks up a glass pitcher filled with ice water. Then he dumps it on the consultant’s head. “Your proposal is the most lame-brained idea I’ve ever heard,” the client says. “Get out.”

Fortunately, this never happened, and isn’t likely to: even moody clients don’t usually unload gangster-style. No, bad clients aggravate IPs in other ways: with late payments, non-payments, lack of focus, and freakish spasms of hyper-control.

The most difficult client, the one that can make the corporate cubicle look downright Utopian, has to be the nonpaying client, followed closely by the slow-paying client. Most bad-client situations merely ruffle your feathers, tarnish your ego — but these types threaten your business.

Pam Watson, a marketing strategist who’s been an IP for more than three years, says her absolute worst problem-client was a big company that wouldn’t pony up. As if tardy payment weren’t bad enough, Watson had been paying vendors for expensive services on the client’s behalf.

“I got on a plane and went out and saw them,” Watson recalls. “I needed to see them face to face. I sat down with them and they agreed and apologized and still didn’t pay. This situation went on for about five months – really, really difficult. It put my business in a bind. They were happy with the work, but I was dealing with someone who was not a good manager. She got my invoices and put them in a pending file. It finally got to the point where I said, ‘I can’t work for you unless you pay up front.”

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Public Speaking Advice, Storytelling

Storytelling and the Local News

Last night, the CBS affiliate WFSB in Hartford broadcast the requisite story on the dog days of summer — whether or not it was hot enough outside to cook food inside a car. If your local television station hasn’t yet aired a similar story this summer, they will. Guaranteed. It works like this. Every day news departments around the country hold “the morning meeting” — an editorial meeting where news executives discuss the stories of the day. The meeting traditionally ends after all the general assignment reporters gather in a circle to participate in the sacred drawing of the straws ceremony. The reporter who draws it short straw is awarded the shit story of the day. During a heat-wave, the shit story of the day is always to send a reporter out to the parking lot with some raw food to see if a collection of eggs, bacon, cheese, cookies dough, and or frozen pizza will cook when left inside the car in the mid-day sun. Being a creative storyteller is the key to public speaking success (and higher television news ratings). If Harry S. Truman was right when he said, “There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know,” then it’s up to use to present the the old in a new way to excite our audience. Whatever the subject of your talk, practice creative storytelling to excite your audience about a business concept or pathway to success by putting your unique twist on the subject.

Public Speaking Advice

Questions You Needs to Answer

If you’re serious about public speaking, there are three questions every motivational speaker, TED Talks presenter, and corporate executive needs to consider before crafting a keynote address.

1. WHO are you.
2. WHAT do you NEED to tell me in your corporate talk?
3. WHY should an audience care?

If you don’t have a clear vision of yourself, don’t know the value you bring a corporate audience, and don’t have a good reason why the audience should listen to you, stick to talking in your sleep.

Public Speaking Advice

Welcome Video

I assume you’re visiting Working the Stage with an interest in improving your presentation skills, or looking to find out more about becoming a professional platform speaker.

Me? I just always want to look more like George Clooney … but we don’t always get what we want in life.

The internet’s rife with weekend seminars, thousand-dollar online courses in public speaking, and coaches offering packages which suggest with just a little help you too could be traveling the world on a corporate expense account, speaking at five-star hotels and convention resorts making 20, 30, even $40,000 a talk. Bullshit! That’s like telling someone they can win American Idol if only they would take a few singing lessons. It’s not that I think all on-line advice or one-suit-fits-all presentation training is bad as much as it seems a lot of its written by people whose only platform experience is a result of standing on stage teaching other how to stand on stage.

Working the Stage will attempt to be a little more insightful.