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Professional Speaking: Delivery Trumps Content

Professional Speaking: Content Trumps


I’ve been a professional speaker for many years now, and I’ve also seen thousands of speakers – both amazing ones and not so amazing ones. I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing speaker feedback – both my own and that of other speakers, and there are a few surprising things I’ve learned along the way.

First, I’m not saying content DOESN’T MATTER, but it doesn’t matter MOST. Too many speakers spend all of their time on content and no time on delivery. There is a huge disconnect between what makes a great speaker and where speakers spend their time.

1) Delivery Matters Most

The speakers who seem to get the best reviews are the best entertainers. I’ve seen speakers who are highly entertaining get rave reviews, even though they didn’t really have a lot of helpful or actionable content. At the same time, some of the smartest people I know don’t get rated well as speakers because they don’t have great delivery.

If you are a speaker (or want to be one) focus on your delivery. Build in energy and entertainment if you want to get rave reviews.

2) Audience Participation

I sometimes struggle with getting the audience involved… it can be hard because as a speaker we want to focus on our message. Getting the audience to engage and participate gets them much more engaged with the presentation than just talking.

Plan your presentation to get your audience involved – whether it is in big ways or small ways – and you’ll notice an improvement in your feedback scores.

3) It Isn’t About You

There are some speakers who are funny and have decent content, but they make their presentation too much about themselves, and not enough about the audience. Inside jokes or references to how smart you are don’t win people over. Instead, be relatable and try some deprecating humor. Build bridges based on commonality and your audience will relate to you better.

Always focus on them.

Can Disconnecting Increase Stress?


I’ve read a lot about “disconnecting” and with summer in full swing, many people are taking breaks where they have little to no digital connectivity.

I recently had one of these – 5 days with no cell phone reception or wifi (confession: I cheated once and went into town for wifi).

Some of you may think “great – time to relax and recharge”.

I say absolutely not.

Not being connected was stressful and actually limited my ability to relax.

It was stressful knowing that IF something came up that there was no way for anyone to get in touch with me (and our sites went down for almost 24 hours while I was out of touch which could have been quickly fixed if I had been available).

Being in touch actually helps me to relax. Checking in for 30 minutes a day to handle any urgent or high-value emails helps me to relax, knowing that everything is running smoothly in my absence and I can quickly help with anything needed. Plus I actually like my job and knowing what is going on – work isn’t this big negative thing that I have to deal with.

I don’t need to enter a no-connectivity zone to disconnect, relax and ignore work either. On weekends I often go most of the weekend barely checking my phone. I’m not fully out of touch, but I’m not connected to the point of distraction.

My final verdict: Figure out how to relax and recharge during your life without fully disconnecting. Maybe some people find value in fully disconnecting electronically – for me, it added stress instead of reducing it.


I Hate you With the Fire of a Thousand Suns….

I hate you with the fire of a thousand suns

I was listening to NPR today (on a 10 hour car ride from Toronto to Cincinnati) and the guy on the radio was talking about a terrible experience he had with United Airlines. The experience made me laugh – as a frequent traveler, I’ve had far worse experience and remained much more calm many times.

As I was listening to his anger I realized something – it wasn’t so much that they screwed up (airlines screw up all the time), it was that they didn’t care.

Most big businesses – airlines, cable providers cell phone providers – bring out the worst in people – we hate them with the fire of a thousand suns.

I was on a Delta flight that was 4 hours late – when they announced the delay they offered free beverages and snacks and you could almost feel the frustration level decline. For less than $1 a passenger they made their customers happy.

By contrast, I had issues with American Airlines (where I have status) and have had my anger level escalate dramatically – not because of the actually issue but because of the rude and uncaring attitude of the employees.

When people get really mad at a company (mad enough to leave a bad review for example, it isn’t just because the bad experience. It is because they simply don’t seem to care.

As a company, apathy can be your worst nightmare.

Social Media Excellence is Like Weight Loss – THERE IS A MAGIC PILL!!!!

Excellence 07092015


It doesn’t work that way.

With weight loss or social media.

There are so many supplements and products promising that you can lose weight while eating whatever you want and never exercising.

It reminds me of some social media “gurus” promising amazing results from social media with just a few secret tips. As though changing one or two things will take you from 0 to amazing in only a few days.

The reality, however, is that if you want to lose weight (and keep it off) you’ll have to actually work for it. You’ll have to watch what you eat and exercise.

Supplements and “magic pills” may help a little – but the big factor (and it isn’t a secret) is to watch what you eat and exercise. It isn’t a secret. It is a strategy that produces results over time.

The same is true of social media. If you’re looking for that magic pill that will suddenly get you amazing results, you are focusing on the wrong thing.

Like weight loss it takes work and effort over time to produce sustained results. Sure there are little tricks that can give you a boost, but in the long run, it takes a good strategy and consistent application of best practices to get real results.

Next time you see the magical secrets to getting thousands of followers or massive social media success remember that success is hard-earned. If it was that easy, everyone would be rich from all of their amazing social media marketing success.

Social Media is Easy When You Love What You Do (Seriously)

Love 07022015

I work with hundreds of businesses on their social media each year, and one of the most common questions is “How do I make time for all of this?????” Updating status multiple times a day on Facebook and Twitter, writing a blog and keeping up with LinkedIn sounds like a TON of work.

Here is the thing.

If I got up every day and said to myself “man… I need to come up with some things to post on Twitter” I would spend some time racking my brain, then I’d have to visit news sites, find some things to share and it would probably take me an hour or so to get my Twitter updates done.

I actually love what I do. I’m always thinking about it and I actually read industry news first thing (while I’m still in bed) most mornings. Since I’m already reading the news (because I love what I do) it only takes me an extra 30 seconds to post on Twitter.

When I go to an event (even a concert) I look at their marketing and use of social media and branding. This sometimes gives me even more inspiration for blog posts and social media. Because I love what I do and I’m always thinking about it, social media only takes a few minutes here and there to share my thoughts.

That is my point. If you are already deeply engaged in your business, social media should be easy. All you should have to do is incorporate it into your work processes.

If, on the other hand you aren’t already involved in your industry or company, you’ll find that you have to spend a lot of time researching and coming up with updates.

If you love what you do, and you are always thinking, social media is very easy.

Entrepreneur Tip: The Last 10% Matters Most

Entrepreneur 06262015 REV

I was recently at the Grand Canyon and we decided to go to a lookout point to watch the sunset. It was freezing and windy, and there were a lot of people there.

The sun went down and 95% of the people left.

Then the magic happened.

You see the beauty of sunsets is that the magic happens about 5 – 15 minutes after the sun sets when the clouds are lit up with stunning colors creating a surreal look.

The thing was that most people went all the way there, waited out in the cold for the sunset but then left before the best part.

Watching this reminded me of business. It is those who put in that little bit extra who are rewarded. It isn’t a huge effort, like scaling a cliff, it is just the small effort – that extra 10%.

I interviewed a number of successful entrepreneurs last year about their business and found that most of them didn’t do anything spectacular. They just stuck around when everyone else left. They put in that little bit more.

They were consistent.

They were disciplined.

They were dedicated.

They stuck around and did a little more when most people would have left.

Do you leave as soon as the sun goes down, or stay for the magic.

How to Travel Like a Pro

how to travel like a pro

I just got back from a month of travel – I was home for about 5 days the entire last month….

As a speaker and trainer I’ve spent a lot of time on the road, and I’ve developed some strategies to make business travel more enjoyable. I used to dread the hassles of flying – now I actually enjoy my time at the airport and in the air.

Since I’ve spent so much time on the road lately I thought I’d share a few tips that have helped me to make the most out of traveling.

  1. Always bring a water bottle. I bring a large water bottle that can be refilled. Most airports have refill stations and staying hydrated while on the road is one of my biggest challenges. I could probably spend $50 per trip on airport water – so instead I use a refillable bottle.
  2. Get premium lounge access at airports if you have long layovers. You can get lounge access pretty inexpensively. With a credit card from the airline it is usually $30 per visit, or if you travel a lot you can sign up for a credit card that gets you access (usually about a $400 – $500 annual fee). This may sound steep, but the silence, free drinks and healthy snacks makes it easily worth it. A quiet place with good internet makes layovers much less challenging.
  3. Pack smart – carryon only. Bring as little as possible. I only bring carry on for most trips so that I don’t have to worry about checking baggage.
  4. Invest in good luggage. Great luggage will last forever, bad luggage will ruin your trip. I recently had a 2 week international trip and the wheel on my suitcase broke the first day. It sucked. You can get one REALLY good bag for the price of 2 – 3 cheap ones, and a good bag lasts forever and makes traveling better.
  5. Bring healthy snacks. You can bring fruit through security. You never know how long you may be stranded on a plane or at an airport. Bring good healthy snacks so you aren’t starving.
  6. Charge everything in advance. I hate having to try to get a power outlet at an airport. Charge everything in advance, or invest in a portable phone charger.
  7. Dress comfortably. Some people say that you can make good business contacts at the airport so you should always dress professionally. I personally prefer to dress comfortably. This makes traveling much more comfortable, and if I’m meeting a business contact at the airport I can always quickly change when I get off the plane.
  8. Book with the assumption that you’ll miss a connection. I used to get super stressed out about missing connections because that would often mean that I wouldn’t get where I needed to be in time. Now, I have lots of buffer time – I always assume that I’ll miss at least 1 connection when I book travel, so if my flight is late I don’t get stressed out.
  9. Have a backup plan. When things start to go wrong, or if my flight schedule cuts things close I always have a prearranged backup plan. This helps reduce my stress. For example, on a trip recently my connection was delayed by 5 hours, but the airport I was at was only a 3 hour drive from my final destination. If the flight got cancelled I could rent a car.
  10. Accept that you have no control. This changed the way I travel. When flights were cancelled or delayed my stress level would immediately escalate. The reality is, once you are at the airport you have no control. Accept this. Make your time there as productive as possible and accept that you can’t control what will happen – you can only control how you will react.

5 Tips Keep Your Audience Hanging on Your Every Word

presentation tips to keep your audience involvedI speak 50+ times a year, sometimes for as long as 14 hours a day, 2 days in a row. When you spend a lot of time in-front of people, it is extremely important to keep their attention and keep them excited and engaged in your presentation. Whether you are a keynote speakers, doing a panel/breakout or presenting an idea to your boss, nothing is more frustrating than when the audience starts to fade and you feel the attention waning.

While there are many tools that you can use to drive engagement and interactions, there are also things that you can incorporate into your speaking style to keep people excited and interested.

Here are 5 ways to keep people interested:

1) Move around.

Don’t stay in one place – move around. If you notice the audience is starting to fade, walk through the audience. I always request a lavalier mic (or a hand held) so that I can easily move around the room. Just the movement creates variety.

2) Make eye-contact

I try to look around the audience and make eye contact with as many people as possible. When people feel like you are speaking directly to them they tend to pay more attention.

3) Add vocal and energy variety

One-level gets boring. I tend to be high energy, but it is actually LESS effective to constantly be high energy vs. varying your energy. I speak quickly and excitedly to make a point and other times lower my voice to make people really lean in and pay attention.

4) S-L-O-W D-O-W-N

Many speakers who really know they stuff talk to fast! It is hard to keep up with them. Slow. It. Down. This adds variety and makes people more interested in your key points. Use silence and slow down for emphasis.

5) Change it up – live demo, writing on a white board, using power point

Especially in my longer classes this is really important – keep people engaged by changing the medium you use to deliver content – don’t stick to slides. Go online and show them a live demo. Draw on a whiteboard or chart to visualize a point. Keep the medium fun and exciting. Also, when you do things on the fly it shows that you really know your stuff well enough to deviate from a script.


Entrepreneurship: Why Passion Matters Most  

Entrepreneur Tip: Get PassionateI’ve been running my own business for 5 years now (wow how time flies) and I’ve been speaking to audiences for 10 years.

One of the things that I realized over the past 5 years is the importance of passion. Having a passion for what you do is in my opinion one of the most important things for any business professional (or really anyone).

I’ve recently become slightly obsessed with Kitchen Nightmares, where Gordon Ramsey goes into different restaurants and tells them why they are failing, and shows them what they need to do differently.


He often uses the phrase “You have no passion for what you’re doing” when talking to owners and chefs.

He is right – they usually have no passion, and it shows. Passion is what drives high standards. Passion is what drives you to work late. Again, and again. Passion is what gets other people excited about something.

Passion is that thing inside us that makes us really deeply want to do something, and do the best job possible at it.

It is the thing that prevents us from sending out a less-than-perfect meal at a restaurant, or keeps us working late as entrepreneurs, or drives our enthusiasm on-stage as a speaker.

The thing about passion is that it is obvious whether or not you have it.

As a professional speaker, I spend a lot of time evaluating other speakers. One of the things that separates the good from the great speakers is personal passion. People can see, feel and hear passion. It shows. If you don’t have it, get it back. Get inspired because it is requited for your success.

Life is too short to do something that you aren’t passionate about, or to let your passion wither and die because of stress, your work environment or your coworkers.

I read a blog post many years ago by Seth Godin. He was on a vacation and was in the lobby catching up on work. He overheard someone passing by saying “look at that guy – he is chained to his work and he can’t even enjoy a vacation.” Seth thought to himself “how unfortunate that most people hate their work so much that they can’t imagine that I enjoy doing some while I’m on a vacation.”

Live your career with passion, and everything will work out.

SuperBowl Ad Review: Dads and the New Moms, Let's Make Fun of Hipsters and WTF Nationwide?!?!?!?!

Like many of you, I love watching the Super Bowl – mostly for the ads. When it comes to ads, this year didn’t disappoint – there were highs, lows and some serious WTF moments. Here are my highlights of the ads:

1) Dads are the new Moms

A few years ago we saw a trend with advertisers going for emotional “thank you mom” type moments and most dads were portrayed as bumbling morons, incapable of successfully completing even the smallest tasks.  Dads have changed. Advertisers are now their cheerleaders and the emotional dad commercials were plentiful this year.

2) WTF Nationwide?!?!?!?!

Nationwide had 2 spots that couldn’t have been more different. The first one was about dead children, who died from random “preventable” accidents. According to Nationwide, their goal was to raise awareness. In defending the spot they point out that “thousands of people visited their MakeSafeHappen website, which builds awareness about accidents. Ummm… thousands of people visited your website? After a superbowl spot? That sounds successful to you? Sorry Nationwide, but thousands of people visit my website, and I don’t even have a superbowl ad. The ad was just strange and depressing, and didn’t make me want their insurance (or wait, will I be insured if my kid dies?!?!? Is that the point??!?!).

The second one was hysterical and featured Mindy (from the Mindy project) being invisible. This was a great ad, but I wonder how many people remember that it came from Nationwide.

The 2 Nationwide ads couldn’t have been more different in tone, branding, strategy and everything… Strange approach to fragment your brand.

3) Dear Camry: An Ad Can’t Make You Edgy

Branding is about consistency between your actual product and how you market it. I’m no car buff, but I think that people buy a Camry because it is reliable, affordable and looks like a normal car. It isn’t sexy. It doesn’t have a hot design. It doesn’t have a great powerful engine. It isn’t an adventurous car. It is a safe car, and that is OK. The Camry commercial on the other hand was about adventure and testing the limits. The car is in no way about that. You don’t buy a Camry because you test the limits and crave adventure.

IMO this ad, while a good commercial was was off brand for Camry.

An ad alone can’t change your brand value proposition.

4) Let’s Make Fun of Hipsters!!!

In 2015, mocking hipsters became fun. The Budweiser ad mocked the craft beer snobs, and while some were up in arms, I say GOOD FOR YOU FOR CELEBRATING YOUR CUSTOMERS and making them feel good about not fussing over hoppy IPAs and “dissecting beers”. From a branding perspective this was great – the people who were offended would never touch a Budweiser and they made their customers feel good. Loved it.

A truck company also subtly mocked a hispter on a scooter… One of the themes between the trucks and “real beer” was celebrating the non-hipster…

Superbowl Ad Highlights

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