Travelling, Speaking and a Little Bill Cosby for Good Measure

So I know I’ve been posting very sporadically and not on schedule this week, but I warned you this would happen. Marketing feels less ominous right now, but it’s still kicking my tail around the ring.

One reason it’s a bit harder than it really needed to be is that work is crazy and I have two trips. Last week I had to be in Memphis and Houston in a two day window and this week I’m attending and speaking at a conference in Denver (wrote this post on my iPad on the plane, in fact, which is how I found time).

I’m speaking on a topic that is one of my favorites: health care economics from a biblical perspective. One of the joys of the job that I got thrust into for Samaritan when we had to do all the lobbying from 2006-2011 (at which point I started passing more of it on to others) is that I got to interact with some really smart people who come at health care from varying perspectives. The perspective I gravitate towards is the economic one, given my level of interest in econ.

Public speaking is one of my favorite things to do. I recently wrapped up a class for some of my co-workers on the topic, and I plan to do another one when school is finished, so something starting in February of next year I’d guess. This year I avoided most of my travel but I was willing to do some travel if I was asked to speak. And in the next few weeks I’m speaking at two conferences, this one and another in Dallas next Month.

There’s something about the spoken word that excites me. When I was a kid I used to fall asleep listening to cassette tape copies of Bill Cosby records that my dad had lying around. Cosby is, in my opinion, one of the finest comedians of all time. He has changed a bit of late (probably since his son was murdered if you’re looking for a time frame) but his ability to turn the everyday life of a dad or child into a story that causes gut wrenching laughter is almost unparalleled. If I were to name a newer comedian who has a similar style and skill I’d pick Jim Gaffigan or Brian Regan, but I’d bet dollars to donuts that Cosby influenced both of them.

And Cosby influenced me as well. It was from Cosby and listening to his routines over and over again that I learned how to have cadence in my speaking. Even when you’re not trying to make people laugh, you have to keep their attention. And Cosby knew how to pause, to use non-verbals, body language, strange sounds and the like to keep the attention of almost anyone with a heartbeat. And in an era where so many comedians were turning to the “easy laugh” of profanity Cosby was able to take a story about feeding the children breakfast or going to the dentist into a memorable, repeatable, hilarious experience for the listener.

I may write more on Cosby later, because his entire life is a fantastic story, only some of which comes out in his comedic acts. He was the first african american in several pursuits, and even at the age he is today can make even young folks laugh.

I don’t know that there will be any laughter tomorrow at my lecture. If there’s an opening I’ll take it, and if it falls flat I’ll say something self-deprecating and move on. But when I talk I’ll be thinking about how to communicate my topic with beauty, grace, humility and humor, and to keep the attention of anyone who shows up to hear.

Speaking of Illustrations…

I haven’t posted anything about public speaking in a few weeks. Here’s a great post by one of my mentors on the use of illustrations in preaching (which has application to non-preaching public speaking as well, of course):

Illustrations are the life blood of a sermon. They create and hold interest, make a point clearer than the mere statement of it ever could, concretize abstract fact, show how to implement biblical requirements, and help make truth practical and memorable. What remarkable service illustrations can render; no wonder Christ used so many of them!

via Illustrating God’s Truth | Institute for Nouthetic Studies | Blog – Biblical Counseling.

Tips!

Here’s a couple of great posts I read in the last day or two on public speaking, a topic near and dear to my heart, from Seth Godin and Jon Acuff:

The members of the audience are interested in themselves. The audience wants to know what they can use, what they can learn, or at the very least, how they can be entertained.

via Seth’s Blog: Speaking in public: two errors that lead to fear.

Most people, dare I say 99% of them, ignore one part of their public speeches.

Though it’s a critical part, they overlook it.

In fact, I guarantee that if you went to a conference last week or church last Sunday, you saw a speaker do exactly what I am talking about today.

via Acuff.me:  The part of a speech….

I’d recommend reading both and adding to your “lessons on public speaking” files!

Upcoming Speaking Gig

Does anyone even say ‘gig’ anymore? I guess I do, so that’s that.

I know it’s really early notice, but next April I get the honor of doing a workshop about health care at the Christian Leadership Alliance annual conference in Dallas. It will be with a panel of two other ‘experts’ (they actually are, I just get to act like one) and I’m looking forward to helping Christian ministries understand the changing face of American health care. Here’s a bit about it and a link to the conference:

How does the Affordable Health Care Act impact your ministry? What about the Individual Mandate? The employer mandate? A panel of national health care experts from policy think tanks will answer these and other questions about the future of health care in the U.S. After attending this workshop you will be able to: 1) Confidently decide among health care choices in the new era, 2) Develop a strategy for health care decisions for your staff, 3) Communicate a summary of the new landscape to your leadership and/or board for future discussion.

via Christian Leadership Alliance · 2013 Conference · Workshops.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Public Speaking Class has Begun (Includes some tips)

Yesterday I taught the first session of a 9 week (spread over 6 months due to my school and life schedule) public speaking class.

We had a good time, and ended early, as good classes do.  I’m pleased with how the class is starting out, and looking forward to giving lecture #1 on Friday again, with much less prep time.

It was a basic overview of where we want to go, and three key notes around public speaking:  Fear, COLD SOAP, and the secret trick to being good that nobody wants to know.

Fear:  There’s very little chance that anyone could die from public speaking.  It’s happened only twice that I know of in recorded history.  Eutychus, who died from falling out a window when he fell asleep during one of Paul’s sermons (Acts 20, and he was then brought back to life), and William Henry Harrison.  Harrison, the 8th President, gave the longest inaugural speech in history, refusing to wear a coat, and died 100 days later from pneumonia he contracted after the speech.  I wouldn’t recommend following his example.  I’m sure I’ll write more on fear and public speaking in the future.

COLD SOAP:  I promised previously to tell you about COLD SOAP previously.  This is a simple grid for making sure you’re considering important issues when putting together a talk.  COLD stands for Content, Order, Language and Delivery.  SOAP is Subject, Occasion, Audience, Presenter.  When working on a speech, you need to consider the Occasion and the Audience, for example, in choosing your Language.  You wouldn’t want to give the exact same speech (even if most of the general aim and content is the same) to an audience of engineers and one of people who had no knowledge of engineering.  A good speaker considers all eight of those criteria together in putting together a first-rate talk.  I may write more on this later.

The secret trick:  There’s two, actually, that will set you apart from other speakers.  The first is practice.  Practice, practice, practice.  If you rehearse your talk multiple times before you give it in public, it will be greatly improved for the practice.  And most people feel silly doing that so they don’t.  Those who practice stand apart in speaking quality.  The second is be simple.  One point.  Every talk you give, whether 5 minutes or 50, should have one singular point woven in that everything relates to.  You will address a group of distracted and distractable people.  Don’t try to say more, say less.  The simpler your point, the better you can get it across and the better you’ll hold everyone’s attention.  Trust me…don’t overreach.  That’s the mistake of rookies.  The best speakers have a single point.  And you get it.  And hopefully even remember it after they’re done.

As a bonus, here’s some tips from a great article with 40+ tips on improving at public speaking (link to the article for the rest included):

1. Don’t be a “speaker”. Be an expert who speaks. Speakers are a “nice to have” but experts are a necessity

2. The power is not the point – slides are there as navigation points, not to be the content

3. If everything you say is on your slides, you’ve rendered yourself useless. Speak, don’t read.

via UnMarketing » Blog Archive » 40 Quick Tips For Speakers.

So does anyone have any experiences, good or bad, with public speaking you’d like to share?

Q & A: Your Questions?

I spoke at a conference last week in Denver. I love public speaking. I enjoy it and I have been told I am fairly good at it.

Certainly I have room to improve. I “wing it” far too much when more preparation would produce a better talk for my listeners. I don’t research enough to put that one thing in that might make the talk just enough better as to make a difference.

I like most to talk about things I know well. And my favorite part of talking to groups is Questions and Answers. Q & A.

Sure answering live questions is more stressful than delivering prepared paragraphs. But I love it. And here’s why:

There’s no part of public speaking where you can be more certain the audience is listening carefully and attentively than when you’re answering a burning question that hadn’t been covered yet in the talk.

And I love delivering what people want. I love that in that moment, your question, which you don’t know the answer to, is able to be given what it deserves: a response.

Q & A means that I don’t have to wonder “did I cover the material well enough so that everyone understood?” I know that I was able to answer the query or quandary.

We can do that here, too! This post exists for the singular purpose of you, my few, faithful, fearless readers deciding what I’m going to write about in the future. Leave a comment on this post with a question or a topic you’d like to see me cover and I’ll get it queued up, provided you don’t ask something where the only answer I have is “I don’t know” and I can’t fix that with a little research.

So what do you want to see here? What burning questions do you have about me, my life, my schooling, my work, or about the universe? (The answer to the last one is 42.)

Learning and Teaching

I set a list of goals for the next year at my job. At the encouragement of the HR Director I didn’t focus solely on improving the negatives.

“What are you good at? How can you share that skill with others so they can improve?”

I’m good at talking. (Not so good at writing, mind you, which you’ve figured out if you’ve ready any blog posts so far, or maybe even just from reading this far) I talk a lot. And I’ve managed to become pretty good at talking publicly: communicating verbally to large and small groups alike.

So I’m going to teach a class on public speaking. Because going back to school + starting a blog wasn’t tough enough.

I’m pretty excited about it. I’ll report on how it’s going from time to time, but there will be 2 sections of students at work taking 11 class sessions. And most of the class sessions will be the students talking, giving speeches they’ve worked up and the rest of us listening. Listening to me lecture about lecturing is kinda silly, really. Better to work at it and listen to each other and get feedback on actual speaking, right?

Plus once I work up the class outline I can teach it multiple times again and again, just like I do with various talks I have put together, right? And improve it each time.

So have you ever taken a class in speaking or communication? What did you like about it? Would you be interested in taking one in the future? What if it was taught on line?

And a closing question: Do you know about cold soap? If not…I’ll explain.

Later.