Your story. Your role. Your gift

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[Quick public speaking tip] 3 Ways you need to use listening if you are speaking to persuade

It's not just speaking ... when we speak to persuade.

Successful persuasion also lies in the ability to actively listen, even, and especially, in the field of public speaking.




Successful speaking to persuade relies on knowing your audience.

What are their needs and wants?

How are they thinking about your proposal?

What are they likely to favour about it?

What is going to stand in the way of them being persuaded?

What are their doubts?

What are their objections?

What are the obstacles to them moving forward with your suggestions?

Listen to them - before the presentation - survey them, talk to them, ask the event organiser about them - and listen.

Listen to them - during the presentation - ask them questions - and listen.

Successful speaking to persuade relies on seeing moments where you can gain agreement - maybe a comment or question from your audience, a situation from which you can draw an analogy, maybe a report back from a group discussion.

Listen for those and keep a line of thinking open that will allow you to use those moments to really amp up the energy of your speaking response.

Successful speaking to persuade relies on your being adaptable. It's one of the lessons I teach in my workshops and seminars on PowerPoint. Be prepared to change the course or direction of your presentation. If it seems that your audience puts value on one point or discussion over another, or if the feedback, comments or discussion suggests that a different direction would work best, then be prepared to change the structure of the presentation that you had prepared in advance.

This means that not only is your structure working for you. It also means that you are building trust. You care enough about your audience to change direction for them and you are confident enough in your material and your beliefs to change direction for them.

Listen, then, to their comments, to their suggestions and the tone of their discussions.

So I have covered three areas of listening that will build the success of your persuasive speaking - knowing your audience, watching for opportunities to ramp up the energy and being adaptable.

Do you use any other listening techniques to successfully persuade?


Author:  Bronwyn Ritchie is an outcomes-driven, award-winning speaker and mentor, a story strategist at Pivotal Story Solutions and publisher at Pivotal Magazine.  She is a certified corporate trainer and speech contest judge, a certified World Class Speaking coach, and has had 30 years experience speaking to audiences and training in public speaking. Want a boost to your confident, effective speaking success?  Click here for Bronwyn's FREE 30 speaking tips. Join now or go to  http://www.30speakingtips.com or visit her website Pivotal Public Speaking

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Quick Public Speaking tip – Gestures, naturally


Natural gestures are basically the aim for any public speaker.

We watch an excellent speaker, and maybe we notice their gestures.

I said "maybe" because if he or she is an excellent speaker, we should not be noticing their gestures.   We should be taking in the whole package as a message,

without noticing how it is done.

A major measure of excellence in any sort of craft, of course, is not noticing how it was done, unless we deliberately look or search..

If you suspect that are not a natural gesturer, ask yourself

"Is this a cause for concern?"

What does it mean to be "not a natural gesturer"?

Probably this is a person who is self-contained and does not need to gesture to keep their brain functioning or the speech flowing.

Not a person of flamboyance.

Why does it matter?

Get a second opinion, and a third and a fourth if necessary.

It may be that you are communicating successfully without many gestures.

If the feedback says that you need to improve -

and the reason given is that your presentation feels wrong, or rigid or unnatural

(NOT for the reason that it doesn't fit a set of rules that someone feels should be followed for no other reason than that they are rules),

then you can work on them.

The first step to take is to learn to stand with your arms wide open.

Get comfortable doing that.

Feel grounded doing that.

Feel yourself expand out to the audience doing that, while remaining grounded and in your own space.

Once you have established that feeling, it may be a simple progression to loosen up and become expansive with gestures,

flowing along with the emotion and flow of your speech.

If not, then you can learn to gesture - there are any number of general styles and specific movements that I have shared with clients over the years, but those who needed them were quite few.

Find the gesture,

then practise it, and practise it, and practise it until it becomes natural and flows with the language it supports.  If it is not natural or flowing, keep practising until it is does, because otherwise it will look incongruous and you may as well have not gestured at all.

I remember my days of representing my high school in competition speaking and being coached to put my finger on my nose when talking about people putting on sunscreen.

For days it felt weird, contrived, uncomfortable.

Eventually, though, with days and days of practice and a supportive teacher-coach, it became natural and I could produce it naturally.

It felt good.

It felt right.

It felt appropriate.

And furthermore, having relaxed through that performance, gradually, I learned to relax into natural gestures.

That was a child, nervous, aware of a very critical judgement as she spoke, and aware, too, of the people who had put in so much effort so she could win for them and the school.

With adult clients, I find those who need some guidance to "loosen up", generally do so quite naturally as they learn to believe in themselves and their message, along with the practice of standing with open body language and relaxing.

If you speak with passion - for your subject and for your audience's outcomes - your body will support your message.

Even if you make no gestures, your stance, your facial expressions and your eye contact, will work powerfully to support that passion and your message.


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Are you in control of your story online?



Who are you?

If someone wants to know who you are, they type your name into Google.

Before the meeting,  you have been googled.

Before the interview, you have been googled.

Before the pitch, you have been googled.

What is Google saying about you?

What did you give Google to say about you?

It's an interesting exercise to Google oneself ... interesting and sometimes surprising!!

Right there is a little window into how people might be seeing you.

That is the story people are seeing and reading about you - your personal brand story, your business brand story.

Did Google put it there?  No.  But Google chose which parts of it to put in front of searchers as the first thing they saw.

Did other people put it there?  Yes.  Your clients comment on your business and connect with you.  Your friends comment on you and connect with you.  You listed yourself on other websites, and commented or interacted there.

So to some extent, this is happening without you.

Consider, though ...

You gave your clients something to comment on.  What was that?

You connected with them.  What impression did that give?

You gave your friends something to comment on.  What was that?

You connected with them.  What impression did that give?

You associated yourself with other websites.  What impression does that give?

Everything communicates.

My mother said to me often and often, "Put your words on the palm of your hand before you say them."

She probably said that as I grew into a teenager with attitude, and not much thought for what I said, or what the consequences might be.

Everything communicates, especially words, but actions too.

So everything we do on the internet communicates something and it's not always what we might expect.

Google, and the internet as a whole, gives us an unparalleled opportunity to communicate, to share and to build a brand, and there is nothing so challenging, nor so rewarding as to to watch that brand build and grow.


Author:  Bronwyn Ritchie.  

If you would like help telling your story on-line, please contact me.  I have a "Connecting the Dots" programme that helps my clients find the story they need to tell.  


Storytelling for Leaders

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8 Secrets from the Internet that can Help you go Viral as a Speaker



What is it that will make you go viral - become admired and rehired as a speaker?

What is it that will have audiences flocking to your presentations where they will engage with you, and change or act or think differently as a result of their experience?

Afterwards, their conversations will be about your presentation; stimulated by the experience, providing positive feedback to you … and to event coordinators!

And if there’s one thing event coordinators love, it’s speakers who come recommended, and with their own fan base.

What makes people tweet your sound bytes? What makes them recommend your presentation and share it? What makes them give that positive feedback?

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” ~ Maya Angelou

The answer lies in the viral elements you embed in your presentations. These are the elements that create an experience for your audience, make them feel something, involve them. They catch and keep attention. They heighten the impact. They are then held in the memory, and shared later. They are the elements that make internet content go viral and that you can use to build your own reputation.

Here are 8 specific elements that provide those experiences on the internet - making people want to share, and making others want to click and experience for themselves – that you can use in your speaking to make you and your message “go viral”.

1. Tell a story

People are used to watching stories on screens – in the theatre, on television and computer. A piece of content that tells a story, on the internet, then, automatically captures attention and draws an audience in immediately. They follow along with the story, waiting for the entertainment or the learning that they expect from a story. Your audiences, too, have been hardwired by a long history of storytelling to automatically tune in to a story, giving you instant engagement - in the same way. You then have the opportunity to draw them in with you, into the story, its emotional arc and its “moral”. Make it vivid enough, make it work to communicate a point, and you have created that element, that experience, that feeling; a memory to be valued and shared.

2. Appeal to an emotion
May Angelou’s quote says it all. Emotion on its own is a means for content to go viral, and for you to create an element that people will remember from your presentation. It can by funny (think videos of babies laughing) or sad (family loss or cancer’s ravages), moving or stupid, cute (all those Facebook videos of cute animals) strange or gross. Create an emotion to associate with your message and attract “hits” - attention, and “shares” – recommendations.

3. Add a roller-coaster to the emotion …
and you multiply the effect. You may have seen the Dove “sketches” video. It utilises this effect well, as the women, originally challenged and then gradually coming to realise that they are seen as more beautiful than they see themselves. The emotion swells. This is storytelling at its best.

4. Be Positive/Uplifting
While it may seem that we are addicted to negative news and all that is awful, there are many pieces of viral internet content that are successful because they inspire us and show us that, as humans, we can be good, kind, tolerant. The video “Validation” is just one. Inspire your audience and you create an experience that they value, remember and share.

5. Use the unexpected
People love surprise. They love the unexpected. The “Gangnam style” video had an element of the unexpected (along with “humour” and a human element that people could relate to!) And the Pepsi ad “Test Drive” was based around the unexpected. If you can create this element in your presentation you engage your audiences, you add it to your speaker brand and you can make it a powerful viral element.

6. Use a compelling opening
Open with a bang, something that captures attention right from the start, and you have your audience focused on you and your content. You can use something we have already listed – a story, something unexpected, something emotionally evocative. Or use something guaranteed to get attention that the audience shares, such as geographical humour, reference to a local or international celebrity or an event you all shared. But open with a bang and follow up with content that is equally engaging and you have the elements of an experience, a viral speech.

7. Inform your audience. Open their minds
The classic internet example, of course, is the TED talks which show new ways of thinking about their topics. If you can present a unique viewpoint on a subject, a point that creates “lightbulb” experiences, then you can establish yourself as a thought-leader in your niche. People will be drawn to your presentations for the insight you can provide; just as the appellation of ”TED talk” draws internet users time and again to those speakers.

8. No ads
There are so many advertising videos produced now that are produced simply to go viral, and there is very little mention of the product. Evian’s “Baby and me” is a great example, and so is the Dove ad we mentioned before, and the numbers are climbing rapidly. These companies are very aware of the role of the story, the unexpected, and the way it can create such an experience that viewers remember that and then make the connection to the product. We as speakers can relax in this knowledge, especially since no audience wants a “salesy” presentation. Make your “sale” whatever it is, secondary to your great content and you still can be successful.

In the end, what you are providing is a memorable experience for your audience and that experience is heightened by the viral elements you use. Begin with your compelling opening, and then provide an experience that moves people and gives them new ways of thinking about things and you will

• have them engaged and focused on you and your message
• have them remembering, repeating, acting on and sharing you and your message.
• impress event coordinators who see that you come with recommendations, that their delegates are engaged and responding, are being moved to change and are talking about the speaker they chose.

Want success as a speaker? Go viral!

Author:  Bronwyn Ritchie is a professional librarian, a writer, and an award-winning speaker and mentor. She is a certified corporate trainer and speech contest judge with POWERtalk , a certified World Class Speaking coach, and has had 30 years experience speaking to audiences and training in public speaking. Boost your confident, effective speaking success, click here for Bronwyn's FREE 30 speaking tips. Join now or go to  http://www.30speakingtips.com or visit her website Pivotal Public Speaking

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4 easy ways to practise your speaking confidence off the stage

If you are moving to build your public speaking confidence, the first thing to do is to plan what you will do over the coming weeks and months. Set yourself some goals and create a list of things to do to get to those goals – “an action plan.”

One way to break down the major goal into smaller, more achievable ones is to try out your strategies in safer environments, before you actually face an audience. For example, take note of how you conduct a conversation – with strangers in particular, maybe a shop keeper, bus conductor, or a person to whom you are introduced at a party or function. The communication and confidence strategies you find yourself using naturally can be used in your public speaking as well. And if you want to improve the communication skills and the confidence, try practicing some of the strategies you intend to use in public speaking, in those conversations. Two especially important skills to practice here are eye contact and a confident approach.

You can also use the same process when you have to leave a telephone message. It is an excellent way of speaking with a purpose, where you may be nervous of making a bad impression. You need to prepare what to say, and you need to present it in an audible, pleasant manner – just as you would for a speech or presentation. Again, here is a chance to develop things you can use again and again so that they come naturally every time.

You can also practise by creating voice mail messages for yourself or your workplace. Here again, the challenge is to convey a certain image - and confidence will be part of it. You can work through preparing the message, practising it and presenting it. This will develop confidence that you can use in presenting a speech.

Finally, find audiences on whom you can practise – the family pet first (!), then your human family or colleagues who are prepared to help. The best practice you will get is if you join a public speaking organisation. Most are excellent, and at any club you will have a supportive audience, positive feedback and training to extend what you are learning from me.

Please don’t forget that everyone has setbacks and these are part of your journey to success. And remember, too, that nerves are good – channel them into producing a great presentation.

Author: Bronwyn Ritchie If you want to include this article in your publication, please do, but please include the following information with it:
Bronwyn Ritchie is a professional librarian, writer, award-winning speaker and trainer. She is a certified corporate trainer and speech contest judge with POWERtalk, a certified World Class Speaking coach, and has had 30 years' experience speaking to audiences and training in public speaking. In just 6 months time, you could be well on the way to being admired, rehired as a speaker, confident and sucessful, with the 30 speaking tips. Click here for 30 speaking tips for FREE. Join now or go to http://www.30speakingtips.com

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Preparation – your key to confident public speaking


One of the most powerful sources of confidence in public speaking is knowing that you are prepared. During the nervous stages, you can continually reassure yourself that you are prepared and can visualise all the aspects of the successful presentation that you have prepared. As far as I am concerned, this will provide the major part of your confidence.

Probably one of the greatest sources of nerves is the fear of having a mental blank. Sometimes they happen but being prepared will prevent most of them.

Each person has their own way of keeping track of what they have to say - of remembering it. Some people memorise the whole presentation. Some people read the whole speech. Both of these have their advantages and disadvantages. But most people create a compromise and, if possible, use notes.

Two very important parts of your speech are the opening and the closing. If you memorise those you can be sure you will use the words you chose for the greatest impact, and you can concentrate on delivery and especially on eye contact. You can choose to read them, but you will need to find other ways of giving them power. You probably should also memorise the punch lines of your jokes, and any words you are quoting verbatim.

If you use notes, make them large enough to read at a glance. Find a way to keep them in order and number the pages in case they do get mixed up. Make symbols or punctuation marks for ways you want to present e.g. pauses, facial expressions. And before you present, choose the sections you can comfortably cull if you find you have less time than expected.

Rehearsal is vitally important. You will develop your own system, but here is an example of a schedule.

Despite what you may have written, say the speech in a style that is as close to conversation as your event or function will allow. Written and spoken language are entirely different.

Say the speech straight through, full of mistakes and corrections. This allows you to find the areas that need work.

Record the speech, or say it to a mirror or use a substitute audience (the family pet will do if there's no one else suitable!) This gives you a feel for creating communication and impact.
Have a dress rehearsal. Wear the clothes you will wear so you know what works best and how to cope with the outfit. Practice with any visuals you intend to use.

Make very sure you can keep your speech or presentation to an acceptable time.

Final preparation countdown for the event itself:
- Confirm the time and date
- Create and check any handouts
- Make a packing list and check it at the last minute. e.g. handouts, -- white board markers, handkerchief (yes, Mum!)
- Arrive early so that you can make sure you are prepared and can then go through your Preparation Routine
- Contact the liaison person to confirm details
- Unpack. Make sure you have water handy and that any equipment is set up and that it works as you expect it to, or become familiar with the equipment provided.

I can only reiterate that one of the best antidotes to the fear of public speaking is the reassurance that you are prepared.

© Bronwyn Ritchie If you want to include this article in your publication, please do, but please include the following information with it:
Bronwyn Ritchie is a professional librarian, writer, award-winning speaker and trainer. She is a certified corporate trainer and speech contest judge with POWERtalk, a certified World Class Speaking coach, and has had 30 years' experience speaking to audiences and training in public speaking. In just 6 months time, you could be well on the way to being admired, rehired as a speaker, confident and sucessful, with the 30 speaking tips. Click here for 30 speaking tips for FREE. Join now or go to http://www.30speakingtips.com