The Wingman: Your Secret Weapon for Speaking Success

Just as one pilot supports another during a dangerous mission, your Wingman can protect you from distractions.

Just as one pilot supports another during a dangerous mission, your Wingman can protect you from distractions.

Strong speakers know an important element of a great speech or presentation is focus. Speakers who can block out distractions and zero in on the audience are more likely to be engaging, interesting and effective.

And yet, more often than not it seems there’s a concerted campaign underway to distract the speaker from the moment he or she arrives at the venue. The host wants to clarify something about the introduction. A guest is clamoring to point out a mutual acquaintance. The AV tech has questions about technical needs. On top of it all, there are legitimate business leads that deserve attention.

How can a speaker possibly concentrate and make final preparations when there are so many other demands for attention?

Enter the Wingman.

No matter the size, formality or venue of an event, if it’s a performance that matters, the Wingman is the answer.

A Wingman can be male or female. Your Wingman might be a colleague, might be an intern, or in some cases, might even be your boss. But in this role, the Wingman’s number one job is to manage logistics, shield you from distractions and do whatever it takes to make you look good.

Think you’re better off flying solo? Consider these ways the Wingman can help:

Before your talk: The Wingman can help you get to the location on time and looking your best, set up and run your technology, run interference with clingy members of the audience, and work the room for leads while you focus on your impending remarks.

During your talk: The Wingman can take photos of you speaking, solve unexpected technical problems (or enlist someone who can), quash distractions like a vacuum in the hallway, and if necessary get the ball rolling with Q and A.

After your talk: The Wingman can help you engage important leads, shield you from less important contacts, and pack up your materials while you’re basking in the glory of a great speech. Maybe most importantly, the Wingman can later can provide you with feedback so you can be even more effective next time.

How you use your Wingman is up to you. The only requirement of the job is that he or she can put you at ease and help you look great when it’s your turn to shine.

Give it a try and let us know if it works for you or what else has worked better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.

10 Tips for a Great Speech at the Holiday Party

Editor's note: Year after year, this is our most popular post. We're happy to bring it back for a holiday encore. Cheers!

Ah, the office holiday party. It conjures punchlines of poor wardrobe choices and over-served sales reps. But in reality, it's one of the more dignified traditions to survive the modern work world. 

And for bosses, it's a moment that calls for reminding everyone why they're drinking (or at least eating) on the company tab. Rather than viewing this speech as an obligation, bosses should embrace it as an opportunity to set the tone for the coming year with remarks that make the team feel both appreciated and appreciative.

Here are 10 tips for giving a great holiday speech.

  1. Thank them. It's the whole point of the speech and, frankly, the party. If you do nothing else, be sure to thank your team for hard work throughout the year.

  2. Thank the significant others. They've made sacrifices on behalf of your company as well, carrying the load on the home front when the employee travels, works late or misses a teacher conference. And no one more influences your employee's decisions whether it's to stay at the company, volunteer for big projects or gripe about the health plan. Here is a chance to bank some goodwill with the spouses.

  3. Mention milestones. Now's also the time to remind employees of what it means to work for a great company. So mention the firm's important milestones whether it's doubling sales or just staying afloat in a terrible economy. But mention some personal milestones too, like new home purchases, engagements, weddings, births and graduations. Helping employees make the connection between a great job and a high quality of life is worthwhile.

  4. Get specific. If your team is small, mention each one along with something memorable about their year. If the team is large, you may still want to call on a few stand outs----and not just the high billers. Some "fan favorites" might be worthy of a mention too, like the IT staffer who doubled download speed or the admin who engineered the office move.

  5. Highlight successes, say nothing of setbacks. This isn't a company meeting. It's a party.

  6. Be brief. Remember, for them the night is about the party, not the speech.

  7. Rehearse. You might think you can wing it, but you're wrong. Take time to draft remarks and rehearse them----aloud and at least three times.

  8. Don't chicken out. In a weak moment you might think a party doesn't require a speech and opt just to skip it. But don't. There is a reason why companies hold holiday parties, but employees won't think about it unless you tell them.

  9. Speak early. Wait until everyone arrives and has had a drink, but not much longer. You want folks sober and focused on you and after more than an hour or so most won't be either.

  10. Save the cocktails for after. You may think you need a drink to calm your nerves, but you'll be better off without it. Instead, sip a soda until it's go-time, then knock 'em dead. You can bask in the glow of a great speech (and a good stiff drink) the rest of the night.

Give it a try and let us know how it works or what else might work better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, check out our blog "Let's Be Clear,"visit bluestoneexec.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Please Welcome….Me!

When I first started speaking in public, I had a rather lofty image of how each engagement would begin: I’d be summoned to the stage with thunderous applause as a beaming host detailed the many reasons I was perfectly qualified to be the day’s expert.

Screeeeeeeeech. That's the record player scratching as reality sets in.

As well-meaning as hosts typically are, more often than not, they fall woefully short in priming the audience for their guest speaker. If left to their own devices, most hosts will print your bio off your website and read it verbatim, boring the audience with too much unrelated detail and never mentioning information that’s actually relevant.

Not only does this kick things off in an underwhelming fashion, it deprives the audience of context they need to get the full benefit of your remarks. Worst of all, it can throw you off balance during one of your most critical moments: your open.

There’s a better way. Next time you’re invited to speak, take these preemptive steps to ensure your remarks---and your audience---get the intro they deserve:

  • Well before your talk, take a few moments to write your own brief (brief is key) introduction, customized for the speech you are giving and the group to which you’re giving it.
     
  • Don’t wait to be asked, but rather email the introduction to your host ahead of time, indicating that in the past, hosts have found it helpful to have introductory remarks prepared for them.
     
  • Just to be safe, on the day of the event, bring with you three copies of your introduction, printed in at least 20 point font so that anyone can read it well, even on the first pass.

You’re not out the woods yet. If you arrive at your venue and realize no one plans to introduce you at all, recruit someone from the audience: your host, a friend, anyone with the slightest bit of charisma (or even a pulse) to help you out. (Here’s where those extra copies come in handy.)

Finally, if you MUST introduce yourself (yes, it happens), don’t do it right off the bat. Instead, begin your remarks exactly as you planned with the killer open you so carefully crafted and rehearsed. Then, just before you launch into the heart of your talk, pause and say “Let me take a moment to tell you about myself and why our hosts have asked me here today.”

Next go into a short version of your intro that offers just enough info to give you the credibility you need. Though not ideal, this should allow you to keep your remarks mostly intact, while earning extra points for style under pressure.

Give it a try and let us know how it works or what else might work better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, check out our blog “Let’s Be Clear," visit us at bluestoneexec.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec. 

 

 

 

 

 

"We Begin Tonight with What's Boring."

Newscasters like NBC's Brian Williams know better than to start the show by talking about themselves. 

Newscasters like NBC's Brian Williams know better than to start the show by talking about themselves. 

Imagine Brian Williams starting the NBC Nightly News with “We begin tonight by telling you about me. I was born in Elmira, New York…”

Once the shock of his unbridled narcissism wore off, we’d hear “click,” “click,” “click” across the country, as viewers registered disapproval with their remote controls.

TV newsrooms have spent decades and billions of dollars researching how to deliver important information in a format that is concise and compelling. They know it’s NOT by starting with what’s boring or by talking first about themselves.

For the business presenter, the evening news offers some great lessons on how to verbally communicate information, make key details stick, and keep audiences engaged from start to finish.

1) Forget chronology and lead with what’s new. In other words, don’t begin with deep background about yourself, your company or your industry---or a chronological tale of how the problem came to be. Get to the good stuff. If major news breaks at 4:30, that’s usually the lead on the 5:00 news. The important Senate hearing that started at 9:00 will still run, just toward the middle of the newscast. In business presentations, decide what’s new and most interesting and make that your “lead.”

2) Respect the medium. A broadcaster covering the same story as a print reporter will get about 1/20th the words to do her job. She can’t possibly communicate the same volume of information. But rather than bemoaning the limitations of the medium, good TV reporters embrace its advantages, using visuals, sounds, vocal tones, even timing to convey a few key points with lasting effect. (Think of how the nation recalls the first man on the moon, the tumbling of the Berlin Wall or even 9-11.) In business, understand that a live presentation is different than a written report and find ways to exploit those differences to your advantage.

3) Don’t forget sports, weather and the lotto. No matter how big the news day, there always will be some viewers who still want the day’s high temp or the baseball scores. In business, no matter how creative or compelling your presentation, someone in the audience may still want to see an industry standard chart or graph. So go ahead and include that. But keep in mind sports and weather usually get just a few minutes toward the middle or end of the newscast---and lotto numbers run during a break. Concede, if you must, some airtime to what people EXPECT to see. But if you want to engage your audience and make your presentation memorable, do what newscasters do: Focus on what’s UNEXPECTED, what’s most interesting and what’s new.

Give it a try and let us know how it works or what else might work better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, check out our blog “Let’s Be Clear," visit us at bluestoneexec.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.