Monthly Archives: May 2012

How to Give a Great Speech


Tips for Effective Speaking

effective speaking

Want to Give a Great Speech?

Try these suggestions…

DO…start right in the middle of a story.  If you want to make a point,  think of a true story that illustrates that point and start right in the middle of that story.  The best stories are the true stories that have happened to YOU in YOUR life.  Only borrow your stories from books very sparingly.  Audiences will likely have already heard those stories.  You’ll come across as someone who doesn’t really know what you are talking about from experience.

DON’T… say things like “I’m glad to be here today”.  You will lose your audience in the first few seconds.

DON’Tsay “Here is a point I want to make.”  The audience will check out right then.  Just start in the middle of the story.  Stories teach.  Let your story make the point.

DO… speak in the same manner you would use talking to a good friend when you are having fun.  Move your arms and body in the same way you would if you were telling a funny or frustrating story to a good friend.  Be as animated as you would be if you were recounting a story to someone you know well.  If you would say, “Well, duh!” to a friend, it is OK to say “Well, duh!” to an audience.

DON’T…obsess about all the things you have ‘learned’ about giving a speech.  If you have to think about moving your arms, the entire gesture will look wooden.  If you have to think about voice inflection, tempo and eye contact, you will look terrified and plastic.

DO…what feels natural.  After quite a bit of experience speaking, I decided to join Toastmasters to further improve my skills.  What did I discover?  Toastmasters wasn’t for me.  They had lots of rules like, “Never walk away from the microphone.”  I move when I speak.  It feels natural.  I didn’t want to become self conscious about my movement so I had to give up on the Toastmaster way.

DO…look for a ‘nodder’ in the audience.  There is always at least one person there, nodding at what you say.  They are hoping you do well.  Their nods will encourage you.  Make eye contact with that person and talk to them like you are talking to a best friend.  Use all the animation you would use with a best friend. The whole audience will feel that eye contact.  As the larger audience starts to feel the story with you, then move your eyes to another person and connect with that person.  Once the audience starts to laugh and feel with you, move your eyes to others.

DON’T…move your eyes around the room looking over all their heads.  You aren’t performing.  You are connecting.  Caution:  There are two exceptions to this.

  • When you are in a spotlight and the audience is in the dark, this becomes more difficult.  Try to focus on someone in the front rows if that is possible at all.  Or ask to have the lights turned up.
  • When I’m telling a story and an audience member becomes emotional, I may move my eyes to someone else.  I don’t want to cry as I speak.  I want my audience to feel the emotion, but I need to be able to tell the story without someone else’s tears making me lose my composure.

DO…pause and let your audience laugh.  If you go on too quickly after a funny part of the story, you won’t give them time to enjoy the story with a laugh.  If you can pause just a little bit longer, they will laugh twice.  It takes courage at first.  Inexperienced speakers tend to rush through their material.  But audiences feel during the pauses.  That is when they will laugh and cry a little.

DO…relax and let your personality shine through.  The audience wants you to do well.  When they see you relax, they will relax and enjoy what you have to say.  If you are overly worried about your weight or hair or outfit they will feel your discomfort.  Audiences are very forgiving.  Your less than perfect outfit, hair or weight makes you more endearing.  It puts them on your side.  Focus on your connection with them, not your appearance.

DO…use audio visuals.  But use them sparingly and well.  Show a slide of a person whose story you are telling.  Use a silly prop to make a point.  Use music when your audience enters or leaves.  Use music to speak over to add emotion. Speaking over music takes quite a bit of rehearsal.  But once you have it nailed it will be dynamite.

DON’T…use a slide with lots of writing and then read the slide to them.  This is the biggest don’t on my list. Don’t, don’t, don’t do this!

DO…laugh at yourself.  Your audience will love that.  Tell about a time you goofed up, a mistake you made.  They have failed and goofed up too.  They will love you and want to see you succeed.  They’ll think, “Hey, she is just like me.”  I once fell down on the stage right in the middle of a speech.  I was in my fifties and getting up wasn’t pretty either.  But once I was up I did a curtsy and waited.  I got a standing ovation.

DOend with an inspiring story.  Audiences will remember the stories.  If you tie them in well with your points they will remember the point you were making.  But they WILL remember the stories and how they felt when you told the stories.  The big skill is noticing the stories in your life as they occur.  Use your stories to encourage others and you will hear plenty of…


Don’t Ever Do This


don't ever do thisBad Idea

I was a teacher for decades.  So I know a bad idea when I hear one.  As bad ideas go, this one was a whopper.  My high school students were brainstorming trying to come up with a fun activity for one of our Future Educators Association meetings.  Everything I suggested was rejected.  They wanted something new and exciting.  I thought my ideas were creative.  They looked at me like I was twice baked boredom in a casserole dish.

“I know,” said one of them, “Let’s have a paint fight!”

“Wrong!” I proclaimed loudly as they cheered right over the top of my voice.  “BAD idea!” I repeated even more loudly when their cheering died down. They begged.  They pleaded.  They gave me rationale after rationale.  I rejected every plea and promise they made.  I wasn’t born yesterday.  I talked about safety, the mess, the pandemonium,  the lunacy, the clean up and the liability.  I was eloquent.

Eventually they gave up.  NOT!  This argument and plea bargaining went on for months.  On and on they argued.  I said we couldn’t possibly do it at school.  They said we could go to a park.  I pointed out what the park personnel would think about us messing up their property and the court case that would follow.  I talked about how it would ruin their clothes.  They claimed we could make paint shirts.  I said that would be fine.  They said, “But only if we are wearing the shirts when we throw the paint to make them.”  NO!   Back to square one.  This argument became the theme for the year.

After months of debate two things finally happened.  They came up with an answer to every objection and I totally lost my mind…simultaneously.  The end of the school year arrived. Some crazy wonderful parents volunteered their home which had a large empty field behind it.  They had a power sprayer for clean up and then a pool for further cool off and a grill for cooking a picnic while the shirts dried.  The plan was on.    We all purchased black t-shirts.  Each student was to bring in two or three colors of paint in plastic bottles. The brighter the better.  It was a neon kind of a day.

The attendance?  You guessed it.  100%!

The smartest girl of the day was Erica.  She showed up with wearing swim goggles.  Why didn’t I think of that?  Don’t EVER try this activity without requiring goggles. I can’t claim that I was smart enough to outlaw this event.  BUT I was smart enough to clip my shirt to the clothes line and tell them to decorate it as it hung on the line.  Meanwhile I stood close to the pool and told them that NO PAINT could enter the pool area.  I gave them a half-dozen rules which they promptly ignored and yelled,  “GO!”

a bad idea

There was laughing, screaming, running, pandemonium and the biggest mess you ever saw in the vacant field. Two wonderful parents stayed patient and laughed through all of this.  They spent forever spraying them off with the power washer.  Some students had to even use their indoor showers to keep the paint from coloring their hair permanently.   Results?  No one was hurt.  It is a favorite memory of everyone including me.

Every time I paint anything I grin as I wear my crazy paint shirt souvenir of that day.  My grandkids always admire my shirt.  They want one just like it.  I’ve already bought the black shirts.  Guess what I’m going to do with my grandkids on the first day of summer vacation?  But NO they won’t be wearing the shirts when they splatter the paint.  A gal can only take one adventure with that much insanity.

Moments Matter


Making the Most of Moments

I’ve heard it said that we don’t remember days, we remember moments.  As I think back over my own life I believe that’s true.  The good news is moments take less time than elaborate events and time is a commodity most of us have in short supply.  Most moments that mean much to us simply evolve spontaneously.  But as we build a life of value, embracing the moments when they happen means a great deal.

I remember one significant moment in my life that didn’t even involve a single word. My youngest daughter, Kelsey endured two long battles with cancer.  During her second battle in her teen years while I drove her to the hospital for treatments, I knew she was uptight about all that would transpire, though she never would verbalize her fears.

I fell into the habit of putting my hand on her knee as we drove to the hospital.  One time as we drove there I was lost in my own silent thoughts of dread and I didn’t put my hand on her knee.  After a while she quietly picked up my hand and placed it on her knee.  No words at all.  But we were then connected.  She was telling me she was scared but didn’t want to talk about it. She was telling me that she needed me present with her. It was a moment I will never forget.

Another lighter moment happened in my classroom as I was preparing my teen students to go on a trip out-of-town for an educational conference.  I spoke to them seriously about our upcoming stay in a hotel.  No one was ever to be in the hotel hallway alone.

“Even if you are just going for a bucket of ice, you must have a partner with you,”  I warned.  “Never talk to strangers or enter the room of someone you’ve just met no matter how nice they seem.” I continued sternly.  The atmosphere was very sober as I wanted it to be.

At precisely that moment there was a knock on my classroom door.  A man wearing the uniform of the technology department whom I had never seen before, was looking for the room which housed the media brain of our building.  That particular door is somewhat hidden.  You must pass through another room that has no posted room number in order to find it.  I tried to describe the process to him, but he was still confused.  I stepped outside my classroom, walked a few feet down the hall, opened the unmarked door and escorted him inside to point out the door he was trying to find.  I was back in my classroom in seconds.

One of my female students with a gleam in her eye said, “Excuse me, Mrs. Easley.  Didn’t we just see you leave your friends and go into a room with a strange man who you didn’t even know?”  I tried to stay serious but the whole classroom dissolved into laughter.  What followed was an out-and-out giggle fit that went on and on.  Every time I tried to get the class back on track someone would start laughing again, usually me.

It was a spontaneous moment that none of us will ever forget.  I’m sure long after I’m dead and buried if those students get together to talk about old times, one of them will say, “Do you remember the time Mrs. Easley left the class and went off with a strange man?”  And they’ll laugh again.

What makes me proud?  I was “present” in those moments.  I connected with Kelsey’s message when she needed me.  And I collapsed in laughter when that was the only response needed.  I embraced the moments.  That’s why those moments will live forever.

This is an excerpt taken from my upcoming book:    Teach     To Change Lives 

A Kick in the Pants


Sharing Talents

I have a lovely friend named Candy, who I met in college at Miami University too many decades ago.  I always admired her and wanted to get a little closer, but I did something really stupid.  I got too busy with life and didn’t pursue a friendship my instincts told me would be valuable.  I’m sure none of you are stupid enough to have ever done this.  But I can be short-sighted like that.

Don’t let the picture scare you.  Candy, fortunately didn’t die.  I’ll tell you about the tombstone in a minute. When I retired from teaching last year I finally had my second chance to reconnect with Candy.  I got just a little bit smarter and I did it.  I found an email address in an old Christmas letter and I contacted her.  We have been exchanging enjoyable emails for over a year and catching up on our lives.  What a lovely gift I gave myself at this point in my life.

Discovering Treasures

One of the wonderful talents I rediscovered in Candy was her writing.  She is simply a beautiful writer.  I’ve complimented her on her writing style frequently and encouraged her to share her talent with others.  Candy was an only child and confided that she really wanted to write stories about her parents.  They are both gone now and she realized if she didn’t write about them, who would ever know them once she was gone?  Memories of them would be lost to the world.  But this wonderful friend is something of a perfectionist.  She is her own worst critic.  Too many of us do that to ourselves.  Don’t we?  If these stories couldn’t be absolutely perfect, she told herself, “Why begin?”

That is when her annoying friend, (yep,me) after reading one more delightful email from Candy complimented her one more time on her writing and then posed this tactless question.  “Do you really want to take this talent to the cemetery with you without sharing it with anyone?”  See tombstone above.  Oh, I can be such a thoughtless and undiplomatic nag when I spot a buried treasure.   It’s that somewhat ‘tact free’ approach to kicking people in the pants that made me a good teacher.  

Guess what?  I don’t remember using that sentence on her.  But she just sent it back to me yesterday.  It was pretty embarrassing to realize how I had worded that challenge.  But I forgive myself, because she has started to write wonderful stories about her parents.  It worked.  Her parents are reborn as she makes them come alive in her writings. 

So now, I’m asking you.  “What talent do YOU have that you are saving for the cemetery? Is that really the best use of your talents?”  Of course, none of us plan to take our talents to the grave.  Would it take a terminal diagnosis to get you going?  What are you gonna’ do about sharing those talents today?  I’m here to nag you just a little bit about it. 

This week in addition to my blogs, I’ve written two pieces I’ve submitted for a writer’s contest and a publication.  I might not win.  They might not print my work.  Rejection isn’t fun.  In fact, rejection stings.  But picturing that cemetery keeps me trying. What about you?

Breakthrough: Change Something


Change Something

After my public humiliation of admitting on my blog post that I had gained weight this month, I’ve been trying to think/act in a new way.  What is there to learn about weight, dieting, exercise, blah, blah, de-blah, blah, blah, that I don’t already know?

Almost nothing.  So sad, but true.  I admitted at the onset of this battle that I believe the lion’s share of my struggle is mental.  I know what to eat or not eat.  I know to exercise.  But I fall off the food wagon like a drunken pumpkin when it comes to staying the course for a long ride. BUT I have to just keep trying to beat this.  I refuse to throw in the towel and let it beat me again.

Swallowing Pride

So as I worked out this morning I stewed about it.  My local Curves owner, Mindy, is someone I admire for lots of reasons.  She is upbeat every morning.  The way she leads her Zumba class, I think she has some kind of an extra hinge in her mid section or something. Maybe her pelvic bone is double jointed. Is that possible?  Her gym shoes and socks always coordinate with her clothes.  (I work out in a black man’s t-shirt every day).

Those are all impressive qualities, but they aren’t the BIG reasons I admire her.  I heard from someone else (not her) that she has lost 100 pounds.  She has two sons in college so she isn’t a twenty-something-lost-weight-once-expert.  Even more a mystery to me, she lost this significant weight in stages.  She would lose 20 – 30 pounds and then maintain it for quite a while.  Then she would decide to tackle another 20.  It took her maybe a decade, but she did it a chunk at a time.  Maintaining is the big mystery word to me.  I can gain.  Wow, can I gain.  I can lose.  Honestly, I can lose.  I find it easier to eat nothing than to eat reasonably.

 But I am the original yo-yo mama when it comes to the scales.

 This morning I waited until she was alone and asked her how in the world she was able to maintain her weight on the way down, as she plateaued several times.  I confessed my inability to maintain.  We talked for maybe ten minutes.  She gave me several nuggets to take away.  I needed her encouragement and conversation today.  Was it anything earth shatteringly new?  Probably not.  But each time someone tells us something, we are capable of hearing it in a different way.  Here are some of the things she said.

  • Each time she determined to lose her next hunk of weight she had to try something new.  One time she lost weight with those old Jane Fonda videos.
  • She asked if I was drinking lots of water.  I admitted I had done that back in January and February, but gradually had stopped doing that routinely.
  • She suggested this week my goal would be to start drinking the water again.  I’ve started that today.
  • She said try to add in one change per week.
  • Next week keep drinking the water, and work out on the machines differently.  She suggested how to do that.
  • Maybe the following week add in a walk each day…even if it is for only 10 minutes.
  • She restated, “Just change something.”  Every time she dieted and exercised herself down another 20 pounds she did it a little bit differently.
  • I’ve fought weight enough to see the truth and sense of this in my own life.  It’s like our body becomes immune to our efforts and we have to rethink how to trick it into doing what we want it to do all over again.

I realize none of this is earth shattering.  However, it was just what I needed today to get going again.  A hook to hang my hope on.  It helped me so I thought it might help you too. Who was it that said that the definition of insanity is to keep doing what we’ve always done and expect to get different results?   My two words for this week are…

Change Something !!





My loyal followers (bless you) know that I have dedicated this year of 2012 to breakthrough hurdles in three important areas of my life.   Those areas are    1. Technology phobia.   2.  Exercise     3.  Significant weight loss

All of these are areas in which I have had marginal success in the past.  However, significant breakthrough success has eluded me. First let me say I can tell that I have hit a nerve when I publish about this struggle.  Why?  Because on the last day of each month the ‘hits’ on my blog site jump way up whether I have published anything or not.  I know all of us struggle with particular issues that seem to beat us over and over again no matter what our initial commitment. I know you are rooting for me.

Some Good News

First let me talk about successes this month

    • My ebook and the print book version of Caregiving Elderly Parents have both been published and are available on  Hooray!
    • Testimonials are starting to roll in.
    • My co-author, Marky Olson, and I are so proud of the way this book will help and encourage others.
    • This accomplishment required me to continually breakthrough my technology phobia.
    • I have learned about formatting for ebooks, blogging, rudiments of facebook, using drop box, attending webinars, using Search Engine Optimization, and countless other techie skills.
    • I’m very close to publishing my second book and ebook for teachers.

Breakdowns in Breakthroughs

I HATE to Admit this Publicly


Oh, how I am struggling in the other two areas of exercise and weight loss.  The worst news is that I have actually gained weight this month.  Yep.  There it is.  Right out there.  Why did I think this was a good idea to promise monthly updates?  Why did I want to make this battle so public when I have failed so many times before?  Temporary insanity is all I can figure.

My exercise commitment was also down this month.  In the past three months I was exercising a minimum of 20 times per month/5 days per week.  This month I only exercised 11 times.  Funny how that weight thing and that exercise thing go together.  No.  I don’t believe it is because exercise causes me to burn that many calories.  I think it’s more an issue of when one thing breaks down, I’m just so tempted to throw in the towel on both.  I have such an all-or-nothing personality.  I have fought that tendency all my life.

Back to Good News

Yep.  There is some good news.  I’m re-committing myself to my original breakthrough mentality.  I refuse to give in!

  • Yes!  It will be harder.
  • Yes, now I have to recover ground I’ve already lost.
  • BUT….and this is a big BUT….I know if I don’t do this now,  what the outcome will be.
  • I also know exactly why I gained weight.  It was no mystery.  I ate too much and the wrong things.
  • I either recommit right now or face long-term failure…again.  Unfortunately in the case of weight and exercise…this is a past habit I MUST breakthrough.
  • I’m asking you to hang in there with me for one more month.  Surely I’d be too embarrassed to admit another breakdown.
  • Pray.  Cheer.  Encourage.  Hope.  Cross your fingers.  Think positive thoughts.  Send me an encouraging comment. Please.
  • I REFUSE to let this beat me again.
  • REFUSE !
  • Someday I want to get an author’s photo taken to put on these books I’m writing.  (But not yet)