public speaking, Uncategorized

“It’s About Your Script.”

 

 

It doesn’t matter whether you are delivering an informative, persuasive or humorous speech.  The majority of people concentrate on how they are going to deliver their presentation, or what images will work best on their next Keynote/PowerPoint presentation.  They may then focus on whether to use notes or make an attempt to memorize their speech. And yet, no one really looks at the root of all public speaking problems and its solution–the script.

I’m writing this article for print and reading, but if I was delivering this as a speech, my writing would look quite different, in fact, it would look like a script, because essays are designed to be read, while scripts are crafted to be spoken.

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A script, like a novel, is written with words–and yet they are different.   Where a novel must set the scene, develop the characters, and create emotion with words; a script  must be spoken to an audience creating its energy by breathing life into each word.

How to Prepare Your Speech

Write it as if you are speaking.  Don’t write an essay, the words will be spoken not printed.  Double-space your script: This is for the purpose of making comments to yourself.

Underline adjectives and key phrases.  These are words that represent emotions.  What emotions do your words represent? If you aren’t sure then this is something a public speaking coach could help out with.

Practice by speaking out loud

I have walked into many high school and college English 1 classes to find students buried in reading a Shakespeare play like Romeo & Juliet or Julius Caesar–the key word is “buried,” because the room is silent as everyone is trying to stay awake reading silently.  Not one of Shakespeare’s plays was designed to be read like some novel–they were written to be SPOKEN! Because Shakespeare’s plays are scripts not novels.

Likewise, don’t practice reading your script for a speech or presentation silently to yourself, READ IT OUT LOUD.    Many people are embarrassed to read their speeches out loud, even when they’re alone, but will pay for it, at the lectern,  when that anxiety appears from hearing their voice, as if for the first time. At that point, awkwardness leads to a lack of confidence that fills the speaker, turning an opportunity to make a great impression into self resentment.

I have seen several good public speaking courses on video.  Likewise there are several good books teaching presentation topics from the boardroom to TED talks.  But both lack two key ingredients. (1) No system on how to choose the right words for impact, and (2) No live feedback from a qualified or professional public speaking coach.  When watching a video or reading a book, how do you know that you are doing it right? You need someone to hear your presentation, evaluate it, and return positive criticism that will encourage and improve your speech.

Public Speaking is a Skill

Unfortunately, videos and books can’t give you experience and feedback.  Experience comes from both practice and delivery to a live audience. Feedback comes from encouragement and direction from an experience coach.

Public speaking comes under the heading of communication as one of the most important foundational tools you can possess.  Public speaking is also the foundation to developing other business skills such as: Leadership, problem-solving, project management, sales and more.   Like any skill, public speaking is an ongoing process that leads to proficiency and beyond.

Looking for a Public Speaking Coach

I strongly believe people looking to learn or perfect their public speaking skills cannot get this experience from videos or books.  For over three decades I have taught public speaking\debate courses, been a theatrical director, playwrite, an actor, and a public speaking coach.  Three decades of hands-on experience working with beginners to professional speakers. I know I can help you in either my workshop setting or one-to-one coaching.  

It is said, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it can’t change you.”  Take the challenge to increase your self-confidence and put the nervousness under control.  If interested in learning more about my class settings and topics check out my website: https://PeteRome.com.

 

 

Strategic Story

The Power of Strategic Stories

I’m often asked, “Peter, what exactly is a Strategic Story?”

A Strategic Story is designed and crafted to engage and motivate the listener towards completing a specific action or objective.   A good example of this is the Gettysburg Address.  A speech delivered on November 19, 1863 to honor the dead at the battle of Gettysburg.

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Everyone has heard of the Gettysburg address and most know the first line by heart.  Abraham Lincoln was a great storyteller, and the Gettysburg address is a strategic story that has engaged and motivated listeners for decades towards a specific action and goal—the preservation of this nation.

It was the Constitution of the United States that was at the heart of the Civil War, which was being challenged by Southern States.   But, Lincoln doesn’t go back to the signing of the Constitution, on September 17, 1787, instead he returns to the signing of the Declaration of Independence—1776.  Why?

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Because one month before this speech Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which not only ended all slavery in the South, but echoed the Declaration of Independence’s first line, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”  Lincoln paraphrased this with, “…our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Interesting enough, in all of Lincoln’s past speeches, he never mentions the word nation.  In fact, he concentrated on the word union over twenty times–never nation; However, by 1863, he begins to realize the union is not sustainable without a nation.  His second paragraph uses Nation in the strongest sense, Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

It was Edward Everett, who was the first speaker that day, he spoke 13,000 words for two-hours, yet no one remembered what he said.   Everett concentrated his speech on those soldiers who had given their lives both at Gettysburg and back during the Revolutionary War.  While Everett, focused on topping Shakespeare’s Marc Anthony speech for the dead, Lincoln chose to talk about those still alive and their future.

In Lincoln’s third and final paragraph he states clearly that there is still unfinished work to complete (an objective/goal) and we owe it to those who already, “Gave the last full measure of devotion…”  He then ends with a solemn oath, “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The Gettysburg address is a Strategic Story.  It begins like a story, “Four score and seven years ago,” same as, “A long time ago.”  It’s a persuasive argument told in a story format.  A Strategic Story is a skill that can be learned.  It’s also a powerful marketing tool that steps up visibility and increases leads.

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The Quest

drama masksThe symbols of the two masks, one smiling and the other sad, comes from the Greek culture of theatre and drama ‘Comedy’ and ‘Tragedy’.  Comedy meant that a story had a good ending, like William Shakespeare’s, “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” or Allison Schroeder’s screenplay, “Hidden Figures.”  On the other hand, tragedy always had a bad ending; again, we see Shakespeare’s, “Romeo and Juliet,” or Director Paul Greengrass’ movie, “United 93.”

What all good stories have in common is their ability to change perspective.  A good lawyer will work hard to change the jury’s perspective of his client.  “Perspective is everything when you are experiencing the challenges of life.”  Joni E. Tada.

This brings us to our next genre—The Quest.  The purpose of the Quest is to build tension in the story.  Demonstrate how your character overcomes his challenges.  End with delivering a satisfying conclusion, which creates a shift of your audience’s perspective.   In the end, the real power in a good story is the ability to continue to change the perspective of your listener or reader.

dan brownDan Brown is a master at weaving history and urban legends into powerful stories.  His  stories have the ability to alter his audience’s perspectives by presenting new definitions on symbols ranging from Masonic symbols to the rituals in the Catholic Church.  The Biblical writers of the New Testament likewise did not just introduce Jesus but have continued to change human perspectives for the past 2000 years.

The Quest, as a storytelling tool, works best when the stories are true and personal.  It is about stories of true human adventures, trials and tribulations, and overcoming the odds; transferring the emotions from setbacks and successes to the listener or reader.  It begs simple questions, “What would I have done in that situation?”  “Could I do the same in my own situation or quest?”

father&sonThere is a story about an elderly woman who boarded a train.   After a few stops she noticed a father and his young son, who looked like he was probably nine years old, board the train.  They took their seats directly in front of her.

Soon, the son started talking loudly to his father, telling him about the clouds he saw outside and buildings and trees the train was passing by.  The father listened to him and nodded encouragingly.

After a while, the elderly woman got annoyed by how the young man was speaking, and learned forward and said to his father, “Excuse me, sir, but have you considered taking him to special doctor?”

The father smiled at her, and replied: “Actually, we’re just coming back from the doctor.  You see, my son has been blind since birth, and this is the first day he’s ever been able to see.”

You see, it’s about taking your listeners\readers on a journey’s quest reaching a high point of tension or emotional buildup, like a mountain peak, then suddenly dropping them, like a steep slope, not negatively, but more of an awakening—a new perspective.

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In Medias Res

It was not a mutiny in the old-time sense, of course, with flashing of cutlasses, a captain in chains,and desperate sailors turning outlaws. After all, it happened in 1944 in the United States Navy, but the court of inquiry recommended trial for mutiny, and the episode became known as “the Caine mutiny” throughout the service.

The story begins with Willie Keith because the event turned on his personality as the massive door of a vault turns on a small jewel bearing.  Caine’s Mutiny by Hernan Wouk.

These are the opening lines for the 1951, Pulitzer Prize novel, which starts the story at the court martial; whereas, the 1954 movie version begins with the 2nd Lt. Willie Keith being assigned to the Caine ship.  The screenplay builds the characters and the causes for the mutiny.  The book novel is a good example of In Medias Res.

Today, I will introduce, “In Medias Res,” or learning how to begin the story in the middle where there is an action or dramatic scene that captures, engages, and motivates your listener to want more.  In Medias Res creates questions.  Questions like, ‘What happened before this?’  or ‘What caused this to happen?’  or ‘Who is he?’  These questions create engagement and capture the audience’s attention.

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cumbelineIn Medias Res is a well establish style of storytelling.  For example, Homer’s Odysseus’ journey already is at the end when the story begins, what happens after this are flashbacks to different points of time, building the story, the characters, and answering the ‘Why’ questions.   William Shakespeare also used this format in one of his plays called, “Cymbeline.”

There are three good reasons for considering the use of In Medias Res.  The first has an advantage of focusing attention to the high point of the story.  A good analogy is on how movie trailers are designed.  They tend to place the audience right into the middle of the action to entice and motivate future ticket sales.  In storytelling, placing the audience in the middle of the action or dramatic scene has advantages.

The second reason gives you an opportunity to seize the attention of your audience.  But what is meant by attention?  The attention here means to engage or to invite a listener along the journey.

The third and what I think is the most important point is it creates questions immediately.  If the next turn on the road can be anticipated there isn’t much suspense.  Suspense comes from not knowing what will happen next.  The middle initiates the action, the beginning explains how we got there, and the end, which we are not sure, still lies around the bend unknown.

First-World-War-so_2786176bOPENING SCENE:   The soldier is writing into his diary his last thoughts before the final battle, he then stops to reflect on his earlier entries as we journey back in time through his memory.  Suddenly, we’re back, the battle begins.  How will it end?   Will the soldier survive? We don’t know. That’s the advantage of In Medias Res.

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Getting Results

 

Consider this: 

st-valentine-s-day-massacre90 years ago, On February 14, 1929, at 10:30 a.m. four hoods dressed as policemen, two in uniform and two dressed in suits, walked into a garage of a known local gang hangout.  Once in, they lined up, facing the wall, seven men. The four poser officers suddenly brandished four sub-machine guns and massacred all seven.

Newspapers called it, “The Valentine Day Massacre.”  This was followed by a nationwide  outcry to halt gang violence.

submachinegunIn 1934, under the leadership of the new President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the National Firearms Act of 1934, was passed.  Its intentions were specifically to keep the Tommy sub-machine gun out of private hands.  Interesting enough the NRA supported the enactment of the new law.  It makes one ask what has changed?gun-control-7-728

90 years later, on February 14, 2018, at 2:30 p.m. one young man with a AK-assault rifle killed 17 people at a local public high school.  Besides the 17 killed, 14 were wounded.  In 90 years, what took four perpetrators to kill seven men—now only took one murderer to kill 17.

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sparkyIn 1929, it was J. Edgar Hoover, who voiced the cause for gun laws and more power for the FBI.  Today, it is Al Hoffmann Jr., a real-estate tycoon, who in the past has been the major Republican donator, and who has donated millions to the party.

But as of this massacre was personal in his own backyard of Florida, he had decided, “Enough is enough!” and has written an open letter to all donators and Republican leadership that funds will halt if future candidates oppose new gun legislation.

I have interpreted Al’s message as:  No Bucks for Buckshot!

This type of genre is called, “Spark-line’s.”  There are three reasons to use it:

  1. To inspire an audience to action
  2. To create hope and excitement
  3. To create a following.

As of today, 100-plus student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School took a bus to Tallahassee to speak to their representatives.  Other schools around the country are following suite.  There is great hope in changing the laws pertaining to assault rifles.

Online social media, television, newspapers, and talk radio topics are hot on this one.  The students are being backed by Hoffmann and other contributors, students turning 18 and parents across the nation are excited about making the change our nation needs to protect it’s future children and government.

Back to my lesson, Spark-lines draw attention to problems we have in our society and our personal lives.  The idea is to create fuel to motivate an audience towards a specific goal or action.

Throughout history, people have been moved to action even one speech.  I think of Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy and so many others.  Spark-line stories are great to motivate engagement for all social causes.  The main idea presenting what the world will look like if the following changes are made.

I look forward to reading your spark-lines in the future.

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The Nested-Loop

In my junior high years, I loved collecting, trading and reading comics.  As kids, we brought our comics to school where all kinds of deals were made for the right story.  But, it was in my last year of junior high when my cousin Joel visited me with a special gift—a book.  He told me that as much as comics were fun to read he thought it was time for me to expand my vocabulary and world while reading science fiction.

s-l640My first book from him, “I, Robot,” a 1950 first edition.  This series was made up of nine stories which I savored every evening.  So popular was Isaac Asimov’s robot stories I continued reading them to Asimov’s passing.  I still have that original “I, Robot” book in my collection.

In more modern times, I have enjoyed stories from James Clavell, Michael Crichton, and Dan Brown.  These authors have a genius for weaving a network of stories into one complete story.  Nested-loop stories are the second classical genres I will be sharing with you today.

I saw Julie Heffernan’s artwork called, “The Scout III” (above) and asked permission to include it in this blog.  She asked me what I saw?  I told her, it reminded me of a storyteller who is creating a nested loop of stories within stories.  She agreed and granted me permission to display her artwork—which I’m most grateful for.

Speakers who perform nested-loop stories, like Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk, have the ability to explain a process while inspiring an audience.  The use of analogies and metaphors are also key in stimulating visual imagery for better understanding and comprehension.  In the end, the authors impart not only knowledge but wisdom, which the listener can pass on to others.  Check out James Burke’s, The Day the Universe Changed, and Connections.”

The nested-loop works like this.  You place your most important story (thought, concept, or idea) in the center and use stories at the beginning to draw your listener in.  The last story finishes the first story and ties in the center story into one neat package.

maxresdefaultWe find a good analogy of a nested-loop in the story of the “Godfather II.”  The story opens with young Vito Corieone witnessing the murder of his father, mother, and brother.  The center of the story covers the boy’s growth into manhood, where he becomes prosperous as both a businessman and a godfather. It ends with the beginning of the story as Vito returns to Sicily to take revenge on his family’s murderer.

stan-lee5Now it’s time for me to end this article, but I need to end it like a nested-loop, somehow bringing the beginning topic of comics through the middle and tying it at the end.  How?  How about—Stan Lee!

Stan Lee is known as the godfather of comics.   Stan Lee’s stories have moved from comics to television, to the silver screen; from movies to the game industry, now to online. Now that’s a real 3D nested-loop!

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Hero’s Journey

Human stories began about 200,000 years ago, before the technology of writing was invented, stories were told and passed down orally.  The oldest recorded written story came out of Mesopotamia.   It was the Epic of Gilgamesh.  The classification of this story is called, “The Hero’s Journey.”

Epic-of-Gilgamesh

 

There are eight classical story themes and the ‘Hero’s Journey,’ is one of the most popular and oldest of all.  The oldest story, “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” was written a little over 4,000 years ago on cuneiform tablets and was taken from oral stories that had been passed down for generations.  Gilgamesh has all the hero action and suspense as in our modern-day stories.

Modern-day stories of a similar hero can be found in: George Baily from ‘It’s a wonderful life’ to Katniss Everdeen in ‘The Hunger Games.’  The hero can be male or female, young or old, rich or poor.  Our character seeks adventures only to find the real story is about discovering his weaknesses and his inner strength.

In the end, we admire the hero for overcoming the obstacles and challenges because our character generally overcome successfully their own physical limitation or disadvantages.  Ben Okri said, “The fact of storytelling hints at a fundamental human unease, hints at human imperfection.  Where there is perfection there is no story to tell.”  Harry Potter may be a wizard, but he was still a young boy.  The story is set in a David and Goliath format where a child character is challenged to face adult wizards and mystical creatures.

Every hero finds a mentor-friend along his path’s journey.  Gilgamesh, 6000 years ago, walked with Enkidu, Luke Skywalker finds Obiwan Kenobi, and even Marty McFly has Doc.  In all cases, they somehow lose their mentor along the way.  At the most crucial point our character must face alone his fears and doubts when the challenge, generally a life-death situation, comes upon him.

These types of stories demonstrate the benefits of taking the risks.  Risks can range from losing a kingdom to losing one’s life.  Behind these types of stories there are important characteristics in what makes human successes and human failures.  If the story is well presented, the listener becomes involved emotionally and psychologically drawing from experiences their own defeat and failures.

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Yes, stories allow the listener to travel with the hero, continuing to urge him on or to suffer with him.  The Hero’s Journey is about sharing emotions too!   Our hero may lose a battle but learns how to turn his weakness into the weapon he needs, like in, “The Last Samurai,” where the hero, Capt. Nathan Algren learns a new philosophy—Bushido, the way of the warrior.  This moves this character from a defeated drunk to a national hero.

Finally, the Hero’s Journey demonstrates that anyone can achieve newfound wisdom if they are willing to keep an open mind.  In the end, the Hero’s Journey is about a visual journey of emotions leading the listener to accept his weaknesses while discovering his inner strength.