• What’s the story?

    Make a point, tell a story; tell a story, make a point. That’s an easy enough mantra to follow in speeches and presentations, but what kind of story should you tell?

    The three factors that work in story telling are:

    1. They illustrate the point and are easy to understand and remember
    2. We are all conditioned, from childhood, to like stories
    3. They can connect with your listeners’ backgrounds

    The first two are fairly obvious, but the third one often surprises people when I raise it during my training courses. Backgrounds?

    Let’s take an extreme example, just to make the point. Suppose you are pitching to the owner of a small business. Did you stop to consider why he started that business? One such small business owner told me, only the other day, “I started this business because no one would give me a job.”

    Another (geeky) micro business owner told me his technical expertise is such that he is always in demand, and he doesn’t have to market himself.

    For people like them, you may want to avoid stories about gregarious situations and talk, instead, about self sufficiency and the virtues of independence. Talk about the injustice of bureaucracy and the triumph of the ‘small’ over the ‘large’.

    At the same time, be aware of your own background story, and avoid pleading your own position. Remember, the main purpose of the story is to advance your business case, not to entertain or to beat the drum of self interest.

    Think about how movies can touch your own emotions. That’s the power of story telling. Go ye and do likewise.

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  • How to make a one-minute speech

    The key elements are:

    • establish context or commonality
    • hook
    • theme
    • need or problem
    • benefit/disadvantage
    • offer solution/make a proposition
    • outcome

    Start by sending out a carrier wave, some way of establishing common ground, e.g. ” We are all communicators here…” or “It’s the question we speakers are always asking ourselves…”

    Quickly moved to your hook. In fact, you could use the hook to establish common ground, combing the first two stages, e.g. “This year Americans will pay over 38 billion dollars to hear someone speak. I’ll translate that into English. They’ll pay 24 billion pounds to hear someone speak…”

    Then then state your theme, e.g. “I’d like to tell you what you need to become a professional speaker”.

    State the main benefit, e.g. “With the right guidance you could qualify for the high fees that top professional speakers are paid.”

    Mention a possible obstacle, e.g. “It’s not as easy as you might think, and if you get it wrong it could take a long time to claw your way back.”

    Then make a proposition, e.g. “You need to set aside at least one half-day, and preferably two, to learn the secrets of becoming a professional speaker.”

    Finally, focus on an outcome, e.g. “If you are serious about a career as a speaker, register now for my seminar, Be Paid to Speak.”


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  • How to DELIVER!

    If you have a speech or presentation to make, the way you deliver it will make all the difference. Here’s a 10-point checklist for you:

    1. Speak with conviction and energy – each speech can expend as much energy as a full day’s work

    2. Be focused – facts tell, feelings sell!

    3. Make it a performance – use drama, images, visual aids and ENERGY

    4. Be distinctive – make it memorable – put your personal mark on it

    5. Use vocal variety – entertain and surprise them – keep them interested

    6. Have empathy – talk to them, not at them – don’t fear personal contact – smile: give a reason to like you

    7. Maintain good eye contact – one friendly face at a time

    8. Show what you mean – use gestures and positive body language

    9. Stand tall and balanced – stay centred, walk with a purpose

    10. Serve the audience’s needs – offer information, entertainment, involvement. Finally, PRACTISE, PRACTISE, PRACTISE!

    I have some Open courses coming up in central London. 29th June, 16th & 22nd September, if you are interested. Drop me a line.



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  • Carrying the bride over the threshold

    Carrying the bride across the threshold is a common practice, not only in the English speaking world, but in many other countries as well. To understand this you need to go back to the origin of the threshold itself.

    In ancient times, most houses had mud floors which would get slippery and messy from the rain water that was carried in on the shoes and boots of people going in and out of the house. To counter this, straw (thresh) was laid on the floor. Inevitably, the thresh would spread and creep through the doorway, so a wooden bar was laid across the doorway to hold back the thresh, hence threshold.

    On entering her new home, the bride had to be careful not to trip or stumble on the threshold, as that was a bad omen, signifying that the marriage itself would fail. To avoid this, the groom would pick up his bride and carry her safely over the threshold.

    It apparently did not matter if he tripped over his own threshold.

    Of course, there were dangers, as when the bride was heavier than the groom, and it could be that some negotiation had to take place.

    So the practice of carrying the bride over the threshold was by no means either obligatory or universal. However, it did add a gallant touch to the end of a wonderful day.

    There is another version of the origin of this practice. In Roman times, a bride had to demonstrate her reluctance to surrender her virginity. So she had to be carried over the threshold, lest she should run away.

    She may not have been reluctant at all, but it was necessary, for the sake of decorum, to pretend!

    There will be more stories of myths, legends and customs here, if you keep looking. Meanwhile, if you’d like help with a speech (for a wedding or any other occasion), drop a line to phillip@speakingandpresentationskills.com.


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