Decide what stories to tell

Think about your life for a moment. What are your core vperson-941311__180alues? What is the one message you would want to share with this world on your death bed?

Who are you, really? What do you stand for? For what or for whom would you fight? What wrongs would you right? What truths would you spread or inequities would you rectify?
Ponder these questions, and come up with your own answers. The answers you come up with will form the basis of your story, the story you will bring to life, and this will help you begin your part in making this world better as a result of your existence.
Once you have an idea as to what your core messages are, even if there is only one, then you can decide which stories to tell to support your message.
What events have transpired that make you who you are today? What people have influenced your character, sense of morality, justice or spirituality? What challenges have you overcome? What adversaries have you claimed victory over? What adversaries have claimed victory over you?
These questions will help you to reflect on your life and to extract events from your memory bank that are worth sharing with the world.
No matter how old you are, or how uneventful you believe your life has been, there are events that have unfolded that make you who you really are. Those are the events… Continue reading

E is for empathy

When I was twenty-five clasped-hands-541849__180years old, I was working with a major training organization and was scheduled to speak at a local service club.
When I arrived at the auditorium, I was stunned as I walked into the room and looked around at the audience. The entire audience was comprised of males that looked quite old.
The plan was to have a dinner before I was scheduled to take the stage, so I sat at the head table with my host and some delegates. During the dinner, I asked my host what the average age of the audience members was, and he told me the average age was 84. Now, that wouldn’t have been such a big deal if it weren’t for the topic I had prepared for my talk: “GOAL SETTING!”
Throughout the dinner, I was trying to come up with ideas for a talk that would be relevant to this group of highly distinguished, profoundly experienced and very old men. I could come up with nothing, so I knew I had to go with my originally prepared plan and speak about goal setting.
After dinner, my host stepped up to the podium and, reading the introduction I had provided him, he brought me to the stage with “…and now, here to speak to us about setting and achieving goals, please welcome Steve Lowell.” With those words, and to frail applause, I stepped up to the podium and began… Continue reading

Be an expert who speaks

directory-229117__180There’s an old adage in the speaking business that says “Don’t be a speaker, be an expert who speaks.” An expert is someone who speaks from wisdom. Wisdom is simply knowledge gained from experience. If you have personally experienced something in your life, you have earned the right to speak about it.

My former wife and I and I used to do seminars and speaking engagements about the experiences we dealt with due to her depression and emotional illness.

When she and I spoke about her illness and how we dealt with it, she would open up her heart and share her deepest and darkest thoughts about her former behavior. She says she would stand “figuratively naked” before her audience to help them understand exactly what goes through the mind of someone who suffers from this illness.

I would do the same, but my expertise was gained from the other side of the coin, being the person facing the challenges that present themselves when your life is intertwined with someone afflicted by depression. I would share the trials that I endured at the hands of her destructive illness and, together, we shared what worked for us, and what didn’t work for us.

Do these experiences qualify us as experts on the subject of depression? No, we’re not experts on the subject of depression, but, we were experts on how to deal with Sharon’s depression, having found the combination of treatments… Continue reading

Good quality improves everything

wine-541922_1280In 2008, Hilke Plassman, associate professor of marketing at INSEAD Business School near Paris, conducted an experiment on wine connoisseurs whereby he placed false price tags on bottles of the same Cabernet Sauvignon. In this blind taste test, some of the bottles of wine appeared to be priced at $10, while other bottles were listed at $90.

Volunteers, who were unaware of the experiment, proceeded to give a considerably higher rating to the $90 bottles of wine than to the $10 bottles, even though they both contained the exact same wine.

But, it doesn’t stop there. During a functional MRI scan, Plassman discovered there was a difference in the neural activity deep within the brain when the volunteers drank the wine. Not only did the “cheaper” wine taste cheaper to the volunteers, the pricier wine generated increased activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain that responds to pleasurable experiences.

So what does this have to do with public speaking? Everything!

Fairly or not, your audience is going to pass an initial judgment on you the second you walk onto that stage, and this initial judgment of you will reflect on the posture with which you take to that stage. If you present yourself as a $90 bottle of fine wine, you’ll be perceived as such by your audience. If you present yourself as a $10 bottle of cheap table wine, well, I think you get the… Continue reading

Speaking Tip – Keep things Simple

keep it simple - reminder or advice handwritten on colorful sticky notesThere’s an organization in Canada that presents business seminars around the country on a regular basis. I attended several of these because a good friend of mine was presenting those sessions. At each session, the amount of material covered was so detailed that no one ever really received any value from it. This was not the fault of the presenter. The presenter was actually a reasonably decent speaker, but he was bound to the presentation materials provided by the company. Those business presentations were so saturated with facts, figures, ideas and concepts that it was impossible for anyone to remain attentive for the entire sixty to ninety minutes. By the end of each session, the entire audience was blurry-eyed and had learned very little, if anything at all. That’s how most presentations are—overloaded with details supporting far too many points.

So, what’s the lesson? Simplify your presentation and your audience will learn far more.


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