Tag: Video

Toronto, Canada.

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Can you learn a lot about how to become a great speaker from watching other speakers? Absolutely.

But personally, I learn more from a slightly different profession: Stand-up comics.

After giving a speech in New Jersey yesterday morning, I then flew to Toronto, Canada where I am scheduled to give a speech on Monday morning. So I found myself with some free-time over the weekend in this amazing city.

I decided to do some professional development and headed for the comedy club “Yuk Yuk’s” in downtown Toronto.

Watching comics perform the extremely difficult art of being funny is, for me, the best way to learn how to be a speaker.

You get to study how they build up their stories for the punch-line, how they use their bodies to enhance the message – and perhaps most importantly, how they deal with the audience, and in particular, the hecklers.

One of the comics last night described the job of being a comedian as: “Building up tension and releasing it.”

I think that is a great way of putting it.

But today, I am not going to write about how to structure a joke. Instead, I will talk about interactions with the audience.

A few weeks back, I had the privilege to see Russell Peters live in Singapore. Yes, going to a lot of stand-up comedy is a great perk of being a speaker.

Russell is one of the masters of “working the crowd”. A big part of his show is just him talking to the audience.

Watching him “pick” on different members of the audience reminded me about the power of transforming a speech from a one-way-communication to a two-way-conversation.

The funny thing is that you can get this “conversation feeling” even in a huge group. In the case of Russell Peters, there were more than 2000 people in the crowd.

Now, interacting with the audience means, per definition, that you loose a bit of the control that you have if you “only” stand on the stage and speak your message.

But the advantage is that you get a MUCH closer connection with the crowd.

And done right, that part of the speech where you interact with the audience is going to be the best section of your speech, and the part that the audience brings up when they come up and thank you for your “amazing speech”.

If someone in the audience says something during your speech, do not just ignore it – invite the person into the speech by asking “Excuse me, what did you say?”

If a person answers a question you ask the audience, take this opportunity to turn it into a “micro conversation” by asking a follow up question.

But remember, you are the “guy with the mike” (or “gal with the mike”) and that means two things:

1) The power of your words are multiplied, which means that anything negative you say will hurt more, so be careful of what you say.

The same words in a normal conversation might not be hurtful to a person in the audience when spoken in a one-on-one conversation, but if magnified from the stage, they might.

2) As the person on the stage, you can easily decide when the conversation is over by just moving on. Some members of the audience might get a bit too excited when being invited to be part of a speech, but if that happens, simply cut them off in a nice way by saying “thanks for your comments, now let’s move on.” Or something to that effect.

Audience interaction is like saffron in a soup – it can make the dish stand out – but be careful of using too much or it might ruin the overall experience.

Unless you are a master of audience interaction like Russell Peters, limit the amount of it that you use. But do not be afraid to “spice up” your speech with a short and sweet infusion of audience participation.

Great speakers know that those magical seconds when the speaker “leaves the safety of the prepared speech from the stage” is where the magic happens.

Think about how music stars leave the stage to go into the audience, or lets the audience sing part of the song while the singer is silent – they normally do not do it a lot, but the fact that they do it a little bit makes the crowd go wild.

Lesson: Use your audience – they are the best “prop” you will ever find.

The word “audience” comes from the Latin word “audire” which means “hear”. Turn that meaning on its head and ask yourself: When you speak, are you “hearing” the audience?

Make your speeches better by thinking of the audience as someone that you not only speak TO but whom you invite to speak TOO.

P.S. Russell Peters actually started his career at the amateur night at Yuk Yuk’s in Toronto. Now, he travels the world with his “Almost Famous” tour. Check out this video for some examples of his comedy routine full of audience interaction:

Sao Paulo, Brazil.

 

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About 30 percent of the audience at my speech in Sao Paulo today did not understand English and had to rely on the earphones that had been given out to them, and on the skills of the translator to get the message of my speech.

If you work as a global speaker, you are bound to get to have your speech being translated sooner or later. I think the record for me is 12 (!) different languages being translated at one conference. The translator booths took up a big part of the conference room.

In honor of all the times I have relied on a translator to get my message across, I thought I should make a post about working with translators.

So, what is the most important thing to remember when giving a speech that is being simultaneously translated?

To speak slowly?
To avoid difficult words?
To avoid too much text on your slides?

No.

The most important thing to not forget is to remember to go and meet up with your translator(s) before the speech!

You would be amazed how seldom speakers do that.

I recently spoke at a conference where I had been assigned an assistant who followed me around during the conference. I asked him to bring me to the translator booth that was hidden away on the fourth floor in this huge convention centre. After I had introduced myself to the translator, my assistant asked me why I did that.

I replied, “Did you see how I was the only speaker who made the effort to find the translator? Now, not only does the translator know more about my speech, what I am going to talk about, and what I find most important in my presentation. More importantly, which speaker do you think he will put in the most energy to make as good as possible?”

My assistant smiled and replied, “Yours?”

Correct.

A bad translator can ruin a speech. And a great translator can be so good that the audience forgets that they are listening to a translation. But doing a great translation in real time is an amazingly difficult thing to do. Try translating something out loud what you watch on TV for example, it’s HARD!

Having your translator put in a little bit of extra effort when translating your speech – because he or she likes you because you took the effort to go and say ‘hi’ – is going to be so valuable.

Translators do not just take the words you say and say them in another language – they transform your message – in real time – to communicate the essence of what you are trying to say. Or, like my translator in Sao Paulo today put it when I was introducing myself to her before my speech, “We translate the meaning of your words, that’s why it’s called ‘translation’.”

Lesson: Your translator is your best friend – so treat them like that, go and say ‘hi’ before the speech. It will pay back big time.

P.S. If you want to see a great example of the power of having an engaged translator, please watch this sign video of the sign language translator from the Swedish Eurovision Song Contest. Golden!

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4 May 2015, Singapore

Today, I had the great pleasure of having my dear friend Derek Sivers over for a visit. Derek has one of the sharpest and most curious minds of anyone I know, and he also is one of the best speakers I have met. Derek masters the art of making an interesting point in a simple way.

One of his most famous speeches is a three minute (!) speech that he gave at TED with the title “How to start a movement”. If you have NOT seen the speech I URGE you to look at it – it is nothing short of a master piece when it comes to how to give a short speech.

The speech can be seen here: http://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_how_to_start_a_movement?language=en

Now, Derek’s speech might LOOK simple – but I happen to know that there is nothing “simple” about making that speech look so simple. Derek spends a lot of time fine tuning his speeches until his point comes across in a simple way.

While sipping some coconut water in my living room, I asked him about his process of writing a good speech.

Derek told me that when he had written the speech down, he tested it on a few friends to get an “outsider’s perspective” to the message. As a speaker, you are so familiar with what you WANT to say that you might be blind to HOW to best get that message across.

In the case of the “How to start a movement” speech, Derek tested the speech on a friend who said: “That part of ‘the first Follower’ was a really interesting idea.” Before that comment, Derek had failed to fully grasp the power of the phrase “the first Follower”.

Derek: “That tiny line in the middle of the talk was what made all the difference.”

The rest is, as they say, browser history. Derek’s “How to start a movement” talk has created a movement of its own – the speech now has more than 4.6 million views!

Lesson: If you risk becoming blind to the message you are trying to get across, try your speech on a few people before hand to get a fresh perspective and an audience point of view.