How Many Questions Should You Ask an Audience?

A recent question from reader and creator of the great blog and book about inquiry, A More Beautiful Question, Warren Berger, had to do with involving the audience. What is the right time, and what are the right ways, to involve audiences? Warren had heard a keynoter ask lots of questions of the audience, rhetorical and otherwise, and was wondering what the pros and cons of that approach were. Let’s go back to… Read More

Do You Have An Idea That Will Change The World?

I often get asked by potential clients, audience members, and random virtual acquaintances if the idea they present to me as their candidate for a thought leadership program will sell. My reaction is almost always that that’s the wrong question. If you want to develop a thought leadership platform, and a profitable speaking career to talk about that thought leadership, don’t try to choose the message you think will sell. Because even… Read More

Why Communicate Face to Face?

Audiences complain about it. Public speakers both fear and crave it. Companies spend a lot of money on it, and are always looking for ways to cut back. So why do we still keep getting together in meetings and conferences with all the travel, expense, and complaining that goes with it? Why communicate face to face? The reason begins deep in the brain. The unconscious mind can process something like 11 million… Read More

Twenty Questions to Help You Find Your Voice

I was inspired by some recent queries from readers and audiences, and by some of those questionnaires that circulate on Facebook to create Twenty Questions to Help You Find Your Voice. People have been asking me, what is a Voice and why do you keep saying I need to find mine? I can talk just fine, thanks very much. What I mean by Voice is that essence of you, that powerful voice… Read More

The Five Building Blocks of A Successful Speaking Career

This post is the second in an occasional series about professional speaking careers. I often get asked about how to become a successful (i.e. sustained) professional (i.e., paid) speaker. My response, from many years of working with people to establish, to ramp up, and to sustain professional speaking careers, is that there are five essential building blocks. People try to get by without one of the five, and inevitably suffer as a… Read More

Where Are the Women Speakers?

Where are the women speakers? My evidence is anecdotal, but it’s overwhelming: women are underrepresented on the dais. Women are half the population, but only a tiny percentage of the keynote speakers. I was at a conference recently where the attendees had a roughly 50-50 gender split, eyeballing the room. And yet, after a day of speakers – on the order of 8 or so – the audience started to wonder where… Read More

Nine Steps to a Great Presentation

A presentation is performance art – meaning that you need both great content and a great delivery to hit the proverbial public speaking home run. Here are nine ways to ensure that you’re covering both aspects of this difficult art and that nothing gets in the way of success. 1.Never Sell from the Stage. The best relationship between speaker and audience is one of trust and authenticity. You can’t achieve that happy state… Read More

How to Prepare for a Speech You’re Worried About

I’ve just come from three speeches in three days. Before that, it had been just over a month. Speeches seem to go in clumps sometimes. So I was feeling a bit rusty going into this three-day stretch. I’d provided a lot of coaching, and done a couple of slots on CNN commenting on the debates – but I don’t fool myself that coaching, TV and speaking are the same thing – they’re… Read More

What Happens When Speeches Go Wrong?

When speeches go wrong, most often it’s the speaker who gets the blame. But a better way of thinking about the problem spreads the blame evenly around between the organizers, the speaker, and (yes) the audience. Most often, a speech goes wrong because there’s a serious mis-match between the speaker’s expertise and the audience’s expectations. And for that mis-match, the organizers – the go-betweens, in effect – must shoulder some of the… Read More

A Good Use of PowerPoint

Readers of this blog will know I’m not a big fan of slideware for speakers. This position is so heretical for most of the business world that I often end up working with executives to simplify and otherwise improve their slides because they can’t live without at least something on the screen behind them. You can’t win ‘em all. Now, honesty demands that I confess that I’ve run across a new study… Read More