Hi, this is your passion. I’m not available right now, but if you’d like to leave a brief message…

The best 12 words of speaking advice I’ve seen in a long time came from this article:

WRITE your speech from the heart. DELIVER your speech from your skill.

Your passion is real—but it isn’t always available on command. To convey the passion behind your ideas every time you speak demands skill and practice.

 

Advertisements

What makes a speech’s call to action powerful? A theory of change.

Inspiring speeches don’t just persuade people of a point of view; they urge the audience to action, and show them how that action will produce meaningful progress toward a better world.

Here’s an example. After I tweeted this column by the Vancouver Sun’s Daphne Bramham (“We need citizens, not just taxpayers and bookkeepers“), Ryan Merkley pointed me to this 2011 TEDx talk by former Toronto mayor David Miller.

Miller makes a compelling case for reclaiming the language of “citizen” over “taxpayer”, and he could have ended there — as a lot of TEDx talks do.

But then he asks his audience to do something: to challenge every media reference to “taxpayers” with a letter or email. He sets out a theory of change: that once enough people do that, reporters and commentators — and eventually politicians — will begin changing their language as well. And that, in turn, will help to shift the political discussion so that it focuses less on keeping taxes low, and more on the common good.

He isn’t asking his audience to take to the streets, or fundamentally alter their lives. But he isn’t just asking them to take a purely symbolic step, either. By seamlessly connecting his call to action to his argument, through a clear and coherent theory of change, Miller leaves his audience inspired and ready to do something they believe will improve their community.

Which is a pretty big part of citizenship.

The truth, a story and pictures: Dan Roam on powerful presentations

If we tell them the truth, tell them that truth with a story, and tell that story with pictures, our presentations will be extraordinary.

‘Show and Tell’ Author Dan Roam Talks to Marketing Smarts

I’m a fan of Dan Roam’s. He delivered a fantastic presentation to the Nonprofit Technology Conference a few years ago (you can see my sketchnotes here). And his books The Back of the Napkin, Unfolding the Napkin and Blah Blah Blah are terrific guides to using simple pictures to do a dramatically better job of thinking and communicating.

Now his latest, Show and Tell, focuses specifically on presentations. For folks who are sick of stock-photo-laden PowerPoint decks and dense, meandering gabfests, this could be a life-saver. I can’t wait to read it.

Well, that’s one way to wing it in an emergency

When I arrived at Jilin, I found that one panelist  […]  had a conflict and had to cancel [….]

But when [the other panelist] showed up at Jilin University’s Friendship Guesthouse, he said he wasn’t planning to talk about Snowden; he thought he was speaking on conflict resolution.So that left me with two hours to fill. And I had maybe 10 minutes of talking points, mostly cribbed from the Vanity Fair article I had read about Snowden the night before.

Ah, but I had one surprise (well, make it two): a Rubik’s Cube I bought at a campus shop at Northeast Normal U.

How Rubik’s Cube saved my lecture and my face

Didn’t like the State of the Union? Make your own!

More and more interconnected world, pass the new economy work for them. And found a way that benefits all of its people. Further extending it as due to the several classes, but it is noteworthy that the rights, but the foundation for such a movement as the necessity of fighting the war; or a governor behaves improperly or unwisely, the protection and forbearance among capitalists, farmers, and enables them to be unconstitutional, often inconsistent with power to enter into contracts for the way in which it is possible.
Is supported by a steady decline in Scholastic Aptitude Test scores. Today the brave people of Afghanistan are showing that resolve. Here at home while protecting our country. Enabling a million children learning what they were building a 21st century, protecting California’s classrooms by this country to love and guidance.

As created by the State of the Union Machine (courtesy of the Sunlight Foundation).

Looking at it on the page, it’s gibberish. But try reading it aloud, in sonorous, weighty tones. Drop your voice almost to a hoarse whisper a few times.

And then roll your own: the SOTU machine lets you weight different presidents to get more or less of the verbiage from their speeches.

It’s a bit of fun, but there really is a more serious side to this. A SOTU speech is damn difficult.

I’ve had a taste of that difficulty myself, having written several throne and budget speeches. None got anything like the kind of audience and scrutiny Obama’s got, but the challenges are similar.

You need to capture the sense of occasion, speak to the public as well as the pundits and pols, mollify (if not actually please) a staggering range of stakeholders, and maybe even advance your own agenda… all while sticking to a consistent theme.

The risk of winding up with a grocery list is high (“Trout subsidies? What the hell are trout subsidies? And why do I have to talk about them in a speech about energy independence?”), as is the possibility of a ponderous, gassy collection of vague generalities.

And as you go through draft after draft, sleep-deprived night after sleep-deprived night, the danger of creating something that reads like it came from a verbal Moulinex increases exponentially.

So while the SOTU Machine is a fun toy, maybe it’s also a warning to speechwriters: never let go of the central thread.

You can run (on at the mouth), but you can’t hide

More than 50 lies, half-truths, and instances of disingenuous spin. Rob Ford’s speech lasted 16 minutes, therefore Rob Ford took liberties with reality, on average, three times per minute. And that was in a speech where nobody asked him about drugs, alcohol, or criminal behaviour.

via Torontoist

One crucial thing speechwriters need to remember: the days of the one-way speech from the podium are over. And even if you’re betting that mainstream media are stretched too thin to check what you’re saying, there may well be a blogger in the audience with the resources to follow through.

In this case, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s speech gets a thorough point-by-point refutation (not just a rebuttal) from two bloggers at Torontoist. If you needed a reminder to avoid the temptation to fudge the truth for the sake of a good line, here it is.

Nancy Duarte’s Resonate is free on iBooks

iTunes - Books - Resonate by Nancy Duarte

This is worth a heartfelt OMG: Nancy Duarte’s Resonate is now available as a free download from iBooks. You need an iPad or a Mac to use this version, but it has all sorts of interactive goodness and bonus material, including lots of video.

I’ve gone on about Resonate at length before, but to recap: if you write or deliver speeches and presentations, it’s absolutely invaluable. (And if you don’t have an iPad or Mac, you can always buy it minus the supplementary content.)

Go get it!

Resonate by Nancy Duarte

Your client’s giving a major speech. What would be in the trailer?

From You’re Going to Want to Watch This Speech | The White House:

I just finished reading the draft of a speech the President plans to deliver on Wednesday, and I want to explain why it’s one worth checking out.

[…] It’s a vision he carried through his first campaign in 2008, it’s a vision he carried through speeches like the one he gave at Georgetown University shortly after taking office that imagined a new foundation for our economy and one in Osawatomie, Kansas on economic inequality in 2011 — and it’s a vision he carried through his last campaign in 2012.Watch that history here and see why this moment is so important.

This marks a first, at least for me: a presidential speech that has an actual trailer. (If you’ve seen anything similar, do share!)

But it’s a logical way to create some buzz, assemble an online audience and place the speech in the context of a broader narrative. I don’t imagine this is the last trailer we’ll see for a major speech.

And even if it never sees the light of day, imagining a trailer for your client’s next big speech isn’t a bad way to focus yourself.

In fact, go all-out, and imagine the blockbuster version. You’ll deal with a lot of the same questions a movie studio has to when they market a film: What is your audience expecting? What will move them? What will bring the sharp intakes of breath? And what will that one scene be that everyone talks about in the lineup to get into your movie?

Whatever the opposite of “Presentation Zen” is

It always warms my heart a little when separate spheres of my life bump into each other. And my webcomic-reading, cartoon-drawing sphere just nudged my public-speaking sphere in the latest installment of John Allison’s webcomic Bad Machinery.

Bad Machinery - March 12, 2013

This guy (the dad of one of Bad Machinery‘s main characters, a circle of kids who solve mysteries) has to con a room full of people into believing a cock-and-bull story (rather than the truth, which is that his son helped to save the city from a walnut-shaped hope-eating monster). His allies: a 287-slide PowerPoint deck and a thermostat.

The sad truth, of course, is that he isn’t the first to deploy this strategy. Dense, impenetrable thickets of text; charts and graphs whose meaning seems to reverse if you so much as shift in your chair – these are proven methods of failing to communicate while appearing to communicate.

A stifling, unventilated room… well, that’s just icing on the cake. (Melted icing, if it’s been in that room for any time at all.)

I’ve sat through presentations where it dawned on me at the 10-minute mark that the speaker was trying to snow me. And then sometimes, at the 20-minute mark, I’d realize they were also fooling themselves. Bad slides can help provide cover for sloppy, muddled or faulty thinking – from the speaker as well as the audience.

via Bad Machinery – March 12, 2013.

Why Jon Favreau looked so tired the morning of Sept. 10, 2009

President Obama reviews a speech with Jon Favreau

President Barack Obama and Jon Favreau, head speechwriter, edit a speech on health care in the Oval Office, Sept. 9, 2009, in preparation for the president’s address to a joint session of Congress. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza – via Flickr)

Presidential communications are seamless, hermetic; they betray no sign they were ever anything other than fully polished.

Usually.

But now and then, we get a glimpse like this, and we get a hint of the furious activity going on just below the surface: the endless cycles of revision and comment that ultimately turn out the glowing words scrolling up a teleprompter screen. In this case, it looks like a long night is in the cards for Jon Favreau.

Maybe it won’t be that bad. There have been times when I would have killed to have a client whose handwriting was as meticulous as Obama’s looks in this photo. If his directions are as clear as his penmanship, Mr. Favreau’s an even luckier man than I’d thought.