Enough Information Already, Tell Me What You Want Me To Do!

DeathtoStock_Creative Community4Author Curtis Fletcher

I am old enough to have lived through the rise of the Internet. Back in those early days, when some suggested this thing was just a fad soon to go the way of the television western, the terms “internet”, “world wide web”, and “information super highway” were used synonymously. Prior to the intrusion of this Infobahn into our daily moment by moment there were only three sources of information that were readily available to the general populace: the phonebook, the Encyclopedia Britannica, and the public library…and the latter was the easiest place to find the former two.

The explosion of enlightenment that has occurred with the waxing of the web has deeply impacted nearly every area of our lives. We have more facts and figures at our fingertips today than could possibly be used in a multiplicity of lifetimes. So it comes as no surprise that those who step up to the present day pulpit, be it religious, political, or corporate, afflict us with more anecdotes, stun us with more studies, and smother us with more statistics than ever before.

Now don’t get me wrong. I LOVE a good illustration. I have been teaching people to use them for decades. But as an audience member in each of the three aforementioned arenas I can often easily sniff out when the speaker began their preparation with: “I must be sure to use this story”, or “We need to be sure we say something about…”, or “They need to know how good/smart/efficient/expert/better than the competition we are”.

Allow me to suggest that if you REALLY desire to have a deep impact on your audience you should start your preparation with two simple questions:

  1. What do I want my audience to do?
  2. Do I need to convince them to do it or do I need to train them how?

Allow me to further suggest that should you venture to give this rarefied approach a go, three essential benefits will ensue:

1. It will force you to put your purpose first thus simplifying preparation

Starting with these two simple questions will literally, with practice, allow you to capture any length presentation in a single sentence. No matter if that presentation is a five minute impromptu testimonial or a thirty-seven chapter book. In this age of information overload defining a discreet purpose allows you to eliminate the extraneous and focus on that which will be most effective in driving home your purpose.

2. It will force you to put your audience first thus connecting you more deeply to their need

These two questions, and especially that nagging second one, force you to examine what you know about your audience. If you allow it to it will become the voice in your preparation that brings you back to their perspective. You won’t have to search for the “perfect opening joke” to attempt to connect; you’ll be connected and connecting throughout.

3. It will force you to focus on outcomes thus bringing clarity and focus to your communication

I recently consulted with a gentleman who was looking to create a strategy for his online content. He was somewhat befuddled as to how to capture everything he MIGHT have in his arsenal to talk about and distilling it down into something to which his audience might subscribe. His options were so broad that he was all over the board.

By starting with these two questions we spent one 30 minute phone call and two email exchanges and came up with a content roadmap that will serve him for an entire year. The presentations nearly are writing themselves as he uses this mechanism to focus the vast information and experience he already has in his own head.

If you want to move an audience provide them with a clear destination and convince them why they should make the journey or help them know how to get there. Do this, and you’ll see and feel the difference in your preparation, your delivery, and your results.

How do you begin preparing your presentations today?

Do you find it difficult to package everything you have into the right timeframe or word count?

Would you like to learn an easier way to create presentation with laser-like focus?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

If you’d like help in how to use these two important questions join us at the SCORRE™ Conference this May in Orlando! Click here to learn more. 


Curtis is a speaker, coach, and grandiose pontificator who regularly consults with large organizations on topics ranging from customer experience to the Internet of Things. He has a passion for helping people create wow moments for their audiences and customers. When he is not coaching someone in communications or marketing he can often be found preparing for his next half marathon, something he finds terribly perplexing.

One Word: Focus

focusband

Author Mark Jevert

I’m one of many who choose one word to use as an anchor point for the year. I usually start thinking about it mid-December, and by the time the end of the year rolls around, I’ve settled on a word I believe should shape not only my year, but also me.

Books have been written about it, and I’ve seen entire schools, churches and businesses take on this practice. Now, each of my family members practice this each year, as it helps provide a daily compass.

In years past, my words have been:

  • Dance
  • Trust
  • Abide
  • Daily
  • Hope
  • Present
  • Joy

This year (shortly after Thanksgiving,) I learned that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet were each asked for one single word they attributed to their success — they both chose the word FOCUS.

Focus

As one who has learned that in order to achieve more focus and clarity in speaking and writing, one must narrow both the subject matter as well as what is communicated, this struck a cord. Furthermore, considering my decision to launch a new consulting company this year, it was a no brainer that focus should be my ‘word’ for 2015.

Steve Jobs once said, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.” I too often say “yes” to too many opportunities, cluttering my schedule with good projects but crowding out room for the best ones.

Focus

Another aspect of focus is to help ‘keep the main thing the main thing.’ This allows me the freedom to set my phone down one day a week and not jump to answer every email or inquiry. I think this is what Paul Allen was inferring when he said, “Technology is notorious for engrossing people so much that they don’t always focus on balance and enjoy life at the same time.”

Focus

I’m wearing this word on my wrist in 2015 with one of the bracelets pictured here. It’s a visual reminder for me each day (if you don’t think this helps, check out Louis Oosthuizen’s story in winning the 2010 Open Championship). An added bonus is that the company who makes these bracelets, Mud Love, uses 20% of all their sales to provide clean water in Africa.

I was one of thousands who took the “ice bucket challenge” in 2014. So MY challenge to YOU for the rest of this year is to consider choosing one word. It’s a powerful tool in my life, and I trust it will be for you as well.


 

Mark is the Chief Creative Strategist for Next Consulting Services, and serves churches and non-profits in marketing, branding, and strategic planning. He started his career in marketing and banking, and then served for 30 years with Youth for Christ in a number of roles. He is a fan of Chicago sports team, and He and his wife, Debra, call Kalamazoo, Michigan their home. They have three amazing adult daughters.

Testimonial: Why the Laffoons Love Launch

LC Ad LaffoonLaura and I can say with supreme confidence that the Launch Conference changed the trajectory of our ministry more than any other training or seminar we have attended.  Launch helped us clarify who we are as a ministry and why we do what we do.  It helped us create our brand and gave us an understanding of the audience who need what we offer.  

The personal attention from the coaches was such an added bonus. 

We attended over 10 years ago and to this day we use the process and tools we learned at Launch in our ministry.  We give Launch our highest recommendation.  If you are ready to take your endeavor to the next level and beyond, Launch IS your next step!

Jay & Laura Laffoon

3 Outcomes Every Speaker Should Avoid

Author Sarah Beckman

DeathtoStock_Portraits-3 smallI was excited for the lesson – even more so because I wasn’t teaching it. Friends said the speaker was good. I knew she had taught many times before, so I figured she must know what she was doing. My expectations were high.

That might have been my first problem.

Is it wrong to assume that people who are given the privilege of teaching others should teach them well?

Not even two minutes into the content, and I knew we were going downhill. I was left grasping at the slippery surface the whole way – trying to catch any meaningful insights I could between the tangents and the deluge of knowledge she threw like snowballs the entire session.

Ever been there?

Frustrating to say the least.

I’m a speaker too. So I understand the difficulty of paring down a bounty of valuable information, finding the time to do so, and then actually delivering the goods in a compelling, memorable manner.

However, as speakers, we owe it to our audience to constantly evaluate and make our process better. We have been given a privilege — they have taken the time to show up and are ready to listen and take action. If we use a process in our preparation that forces us to think about what we are trying to achieve – what we want our audience to DO when they leave — we are halfway there.

I use the SCORRE™ method in my speech preparation, and even though I am completely sold out on its effectiveness and power, I too, can be tempted to circumvent the process and head for the hills.

But the problem is, without a trail map, you will end up going places you never intended. Your audience deserves better. 

You speak to make an impact. And it’s important to know that if you don’t choose a process, and stick with it faithfully, you will end up with three unintended outcomes.

Unintended Outcome 1:  Distracted Audience

I showed up that day READY to learn. I expected to be nourished spiritually, and to get new insights from a reputed teacher. However, when the material was more like a stream of consciousness than an outline, I became distracted. (In fact, I wrote down the objective and rationale for this blog while she talked.)

When we don’t do the hard work in advance to create a cohesive message with clear rationale, we end up with disinterested listeners. We want to engage our audience, not distract them.

Unintended Outcome 2: Overwhelmed Audience

When that speaker flooded her message with every single scripture she came across related to the topic, I felt like I was drinking from a fire hose! I have no doubt she was smart and knew her Bible, but her vast knowledge overwhelmed me. It also made me feel inadequate.

When we impart all our knowledge instead of only what is essential to achieve our objective, we lose our listeners. We want receptive listeners, not overwhelmed ones.

Unintended Outcome 3:  Unmotivated Audience

No matter how much I wanted to “get something” out of the message that day, my speaker couldn’t take me there.

Why? Because she didn’t know where “there” was herself.

When we don’t create a crystal clear objective by forcing ourselves to answer: “What do I want them to do when they leave?” our audience has no clue why they came to hear us in the first place. We want to inspire our audience to action, not leave them unmotivated.

Circumventing an often tedious, but necessary, speech preparation process, will leave us settling for outcomes we never intended.

As long as we have been given the stage, the podium or the conference room, we need to take that privilege seriously. The work needed is worth doing, so do the work! You will have engaged, receptive and motivated listeners…who will certainly be glad you did.

What is your speaking preparation process? 

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

If you don’t have a process already, consider attending the SCORRE™ Conference coming up May 4-7, 2015 in Orlando, FL.


Sarah Beckman is a Speaker, Writer and Communications Coach.  She also speaks to audiences across the country on topics including loving your neighbor, sharing your faith, safeguarding your marriage and digging up your talents.  She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her husband, Craig and her 3 teenage children.  She loves the mountains and eating green chile. 

Storytelling 101: Crafting Your Illustration for Maximum Impact

Author Michele Cushatt

DeathtoStock_Wired4Within moments of his opening, I was spellbound. He described characters I could almost see, and painted a setting so exquisite I could picture it as if I were already there. He continued on for 20 minutes, or maybe an hour. Who knows? Time stood still, and he could’ve talked for hours for all I cared. I was a child lost in story, unaware of the world around me.

A communicator who knows how to weave a story into his message is the best kind. Regardless of the topic–a stadium packed with fans or a conference room filled with staff–the communicator who learns the art of story, practices it, and then masters it can command the attention of anyone. And deliver the message he was made to tell.

To tell a story, you need to understand story composition. Like bones for the body, the right elements have the ability to make a story–and your message–stand. Learn the rules, and you can move your message (and audience) anywhere you want it to go. Ignore them, and your message is likely to flounder.

Depending on which story resource you study, a story can be broken down various ways. Because our application is speaking rather than writing, I’ve simplified the process into five basic elements. To help us understand it in real time, I’ve used the Biblical parable of The Prodigal Son as an example. (Luke 11:15-24)

Element #1: Exposition

This is the story’s beginning, the every-day life of the main character before complications interrupt the status quo. Whereas a novel may take pages to establish ordinary life, a speech cannot afford to do so. This may be a sentence or two at most. Or it may be woven into the other elements of your story. When Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son, he provided very little details into the father and sons’ ordinary life. But we know enough to have a context for what’s about to happen: There are two sons, a father, and enough wealth to make for an inheritance.

Element #2: Inciting Incident

Just as life, every good story is ripe with tension. Without conflict, we’d question its authenticity. The inciting incident is an event that initiates conflict and pushes the main character to a point of no return. Ultimately it requires change, which is the substance of the rest of the story. In our parable, the youngest son asks for his inheritance, an offensive request of a still-living father. In this case, the son initiates the conflict, creating his own inciting incident and taking him in a direction that will change him forever.

Element #3: Rising Action

As with most stories, tension isn’t typically limited to one event or scenario. The best stories are those thick with complications, one right after the other, until the character faces insurmountable odds. We see this clearly in the predicament of the youngest son. He leaves his father with a fat wallet and more than enough selfish ambition. He takes off sky high, ready to party and live it up. But soon his money runs out, a famine hits the country, and eventually he has no food, nor any hopeful prospects. We see him feeding swine, starving, longing to eat pig slop but without a single friend or advocate to help fill his belly.

Element #4: Climax

This is where tension hits a peak. It’s the character’s worst case scenario, the fork in the road where the character’s life could literally go one way or the other. Everything hangs in the balance and we don’t yet know how the story will end. When the Prodigal Son realizes he is likely to starve, it occurs to him he can return home and beg to be a servant on his father’s staff. Still, the tension hasn’t yet hit its peak. I believe the climax of this story is that brief moment when the son and the father, still separated by distance, see each other. In that split second, the son doesn’t yet know if he’ll be received. The story could go either way.

Element #5: Resolution

Also known as denouement (from a French word meaning to “untie,” as in knots), this is how the story ends. The tension is relieved, crisis is averted. As a result of the journey, the character is transformed. We see this beautifully portrayed in the story of the son. When the father sees his lost son in the distance, he is moved with love and compassion and takes off in a run. When the dejected, lost, hungry, and humiliated younger son sees his radiant father at a gallop, he changes. The son who asks to be a servant is a much more humble and meek version of the child who took his father’s money and ran away.

I have one final instruction for the crafting of your story. Really, it’s where you should begin…

When choosing a story to tell, you must first establish the objective of your message.

A story is nothing but entertainment unless you know what you hope to accomplish in the telling of it. We have enough entertainers; what we need more of is masterful messengers. Determine your objective, and then identify these five elements of your story. Use each one to further your objective, concluding with a resolution that drives your objective home. If you do, your audience will be spellbound and your message delivered like a master.


 

A storyteller at heart, Michele Cushatt inspires audiences with the warmth of her transparency and presence. Her unique style makes you feel like you just spent an afternoon with a good friend, sparking tears one moment and laughter the next. Having experienced both the best and worst of life, she’s unafraid to disclose her imperfect spaces, so that you know you’re not alone in yours.

You Have Permission…

one-on-one conversationAuthor Mark Jevert

Mark is the Chief Creative Strategist for Next Consulting Services, and serves churches and non-profits in marketing, branding, and strategic planning. He served for 30 years with Youth for Christ in a number of roles, and is a fan of Chicago sports teams. He and his wife, Debra, call Kalamazoo, Michigan their home, and they have three amazing adult daughters.

I remember reading in one of Bill Hybel’s books that he invites 6-8 people from his congregation to give him specific feedback on his talks. He gave them a sheet with several questions on it, and had them turn it into him a couple days after his sermon to help him “stay on track” in effective communication. He gives them permission to speak into his life and his communication skills.

W0W – that’s transparent leadership, and a sign of someone who wants to get better and better.

So what about you and me?

Do we invite people to speak into our lives to help make us better… helping to show us a clearer picture of who we are and help identify our blind spots?

3 Public Speaking Myths and How to Overcome Them

Author Jeff Goins

118For years, I avoided public speaking, because I was afraid. Of what, I wasn’t sure. Isn’t that how fear operates — by veiling itself in mystery?

A lot of people are afraid of speaking in public. The problem? They’re believing lies. Maybe you’re prone to some of these, as well; I know I was.

It took some experience and coaching for me to believe the truth about speaking and the impact my words could make.

It’s time that you and I both faced some myths about this irrational fear.

One Component Speakers Most Often Overlook

Author: Curtis Fletcher

It seems that every year at the SCORRE™ Conference I get at least one student in my group who wants to use copious detailed notes for their talk. The simple reason is that they have crafted a manuscript detailing exactly what they want to say. Even when I point out to them on video how impersonal it looks to be reading to their audience, they resist giving up the notes because they like the words.

I WISH they would spend as much time figuring out their audience as they do sweating over the turn of a phrase.

It goes without saying that every speaker/presenter needs to know their material. I don’t mean their lines, I mean their subject matter and the objective of their talk. But it is far too often the case that in preparation for a presentation speakers gloss over the makeup of the audience.