Have A Plan B for Everything

student-849816_1920I don’t use PowerPoint very often, but I will if it enhances the material I’m about to deliver. I also prepare another version of the same presentation, only this one doesn’t require the visuals. I do this in case I arrive at a location to speak, and the projector that was promised doesn’t show up, or it doesn’t work for whatever reason, yet, I can still go on with the presentation.

In early 2010, I was making my first presentation to my Business Education and Networking event called “Your Stage.” I was presenting an education piece on why bullet points shouldn’t be used in a presentation. I’d spent many hours creating an animated slide deck that visually demonstrated how information flows into the brain. My slides were well designed, but complex in their animation, because the complexity was required in order to demonstrate the process properly.

As I began explaining the process, my computer went black. For no obvious reason, it just shut itself off. The timing couldn’t have been more precise. It was as if Murphy himself was standing by with a remote control, and timed the blackout with expert precision.

I simply kept speaking, as if the computer switched off at my command. Instead of using the slides to provide a visual of the process I was explaining, I described it using gestures. I’d already practiced this in advance, just in case I needed to go to a… Continue reading

Don’t Worry About Being Perfect

For my entire life, I’ve been a musician. I’ve played in bands since I was very young and have traveled the country performing live on stage and recording in studios. My best friend, Dave, was always with me in these bands. We’ve always played music together.

In the late 1980s, our band broke up, so Dave and I decided we were going to do things differently. We decided we weren’t going to find another drummer and bass player. Instead, we were going to enter the age of electronic music.

We went out and purchased all the latest electronic equipment and hibernated for a year in the basement. We learned and programmed the drums, the bass and the background orchestration so he and I could be the only ones on the stage. With Dave at his keyboard, and me playing my guitar, we could present a full band sound with only two guys.

After a year of programming and rehearsing, we took to the stage and for the next ten years we performed as a duo. So, what does all of this have to do with public speaking? Read on, and you’ll see.

As we played, we could always feel a difference between the music from the computer and the music that used to come from our live band. The difference was that the music coming from the computer was perfect. It was flawlessly timed and it was perfectly in sync,… Continue reading

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

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