Free Kindle ebook: Presentation Sin

Today (September 30) you can download Alan Hoffler’s new book Presentation Sin for FREE on Kindle.

Alan is a fantastic speaker and communications coach and trainer and owner of MillsWyck Communications. I took his Powerful, Persuasive Speaking and Powerful, Persuasive Content workshops a few years ago and became a convert to his approach. After years of freaking out over public speaking I became more comfortable on stage and more in tune with my audience. I also use his audience analysis and content development approaches in my writing.

Will a book make you a good speaker? Not on its own—you still need to practice. But this book will set you on the right path. And if you ever have a chance to take Alan’s workshops, by all means do!

Presentation Sin: FREE Sep 30!

Presentation Sin: FREE Sep 30!

On reading poetry in public

For the longest time, I resisted public speaking—out of fear, discomfort, whatever you want to call that particular variety of head trash. Back in June I finished the first level of Toastmasters (10 speeches). As I wrote then, something had finally clicked for me (I think part of it is called “rehearsal”!) and I started to appreciate the experience.

Recently I’ve had two chances to read some of my poetry in public, and I have a third event coming up this week. I’ve been surprised how much I’ve enjoyed not only the performance and the audience response, but the process of deciding what to read and what to say.

How do you give the audience a sense of you and your writing in 6 minutes? or 10? or 15?

Six minutes allowed more poetry than I expected—I was able to read five short poems with comments in between. I tried to choose a variety that ranged from amusing to bizarre to philosophical, but the comments helped connect them thematically (childhood, summer, etc.). And I ended on a warm, positive note.

I practiced with a timer to make sure I stayed within the limit, and was surprised how close the timing came out for each poem—usually within a couple seconds. Apparently my ear knows the pace at which it wants the poem to be read. Any variation in overall time tended to come from my comments—which I learned to keep brief.

I started to worry when I had to fill 15 minutes! Did I have enough reasonably good work to read?? I read the same five poems as the first reading, and added another five, including a longer poem (3 ½ minutes). It was interesting to consider how to order a lengthier set, and I ended up grouping them around self-image, childhood and, hmmm, let’s say, soulfulness.

I’ve heard enough poets read to recognize how flow and context can enhance the audience’s appreciation for their work. We’d all like to think our poems stand on their own, and often they do, but it sure helps to have a little insight from the poet. When I was rehearsing my first 6 minutes with my Toastmasters club, one of the nicest pieces of feedback I got was “I really felt like I got to know you through your poems and comments.”

For this week, I’m working on a 10-minute set. I’d love to hear from my poet friends–how do you think about choosing work for a public reading? Any advice or tips you’d like to share with us novices?

Andy Warhol was wrong!

Even though I’ve already had my first 6 minutes of fame, I get 15 more!

The Art of Style, a great little clothing boutique in Raleigh’s Cameron Village, is hosting Mind. Body. Soul. 7-9pm, Friday, October 5, 2012.

The event includes…

  • Nibbles and sips from health boutique Nourish,
  • Artwork by Jarrett Burch,
  • Tunes from local musicians, and
  • Four poets reading throughout the night: Drew Becker, Harry Calhoun, Alice Osborn and yours truly!

If you’re in the area, stop by and join us–it should be fun!

My 6 Minutes Are Up!

I am happy to report I successfully completed my first public poetry reading! 🙂

poetrySPARK made for a fun evening. The Featured Reader event was held in a cool venue–hair salon by day, bar by night. We read from the DJ booth! With 6 featured readers, a youth contest winner, and three invited poets, the two hours were jam-packed.

Apparently a jury selected the 6 featured poets from a couple dozen entries (in a blind process), so I felt good to be in the top quartile based on the poems alone. And I performed my poems the way I wanted to–no stumbling or mumbling–and got good feedback from the group. I was glad I had practiced! Thanks to my Toastmasters club for the feedback–I used it.

All in all, I am satisfied with my debut. Now I might have to try an open mic night… (Ooo, I’m giddy with anticipation!)

Reading from the DJ booth

A movie not to miss: SPEAK

We all speak. Some beautifully, some loquaciously, some haltingly.

Most of us are comfortable speaking in 1-on-1 conversations, in small groups, and in meetings with people we know. But many of us (myself included) find “public speaking” a whole different game.

Public speaking—giving a “speech”—freaks. us. out.

Some people are more scared of public speaking than they are of dying (I wouldn’t go that far)!

Filmmakers Paul Galichia and Brian Weidling decided to explore the fear of public speaking by following the journey of the 10 finalists in the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking.

Their 90-minute documentary delivers compelling stories of ordinary people who decided not only to improve their public speaking skills, but to make a mark on the world with them. It will make you laugh, it will make you squirm, it will engender compassion. And take some Kleenex.

Every person I’ve talked to who has seen the film has raved about it. In the car on the way home, my husband and I couldn’t stop analyzing the characters and their portrayal. When I got home, I immediately sent an email to the president of my Toastmasters club to say we needed to host a screening—for as many people as possible.

If you need some motivation, inspiration, or affirmation, or if you just like a really well-done film, go see SPEAK. Then let me know what you think.

My First 6 Minutes of Fame

A few weeks ago I saw an announcement in the paper that poetry submissions were being accepted for an upcoming creativity festival. The selected poets would be featured readers at a Saturday night event.  On the very last day possible, I sent in my three poems and paid my five bucks. What could it hurt?

Go figure—I got selected. So tomorrow night I get to use my 6 minutes to read a few poems. My first real public poetry reading! Woo-hoo!

I have dutifully practiced and timed my poems and comments so I stay within the allotted time. I did a run-through at my Toastmasters group on Monday. I need a few more read-throughs to stay fresh, a new folder to put my pages in, and voila! I will be set.

If you’re in the Raleigh, NC, area and need something fun to do on a Saturday night (yes, poetry reading is great fun!), check out poetrySPARK, part of the 4-day SPARKcon festival.

I’ll let you know how it goes. And then I can start planning my remaining 9 minutes…


I am now a “competent communicator”!!

When you join a Toastmasters club, you start working through the “Competent Communication” manual, a series of 10 speeches, each with a different focus (organization, vocal variety, gestures, etc.), culminating in a big “inspirational” speech to wrap it all together. After two years of procrastination, I finally wrapped up my 10th speech yesterday. And you know what? I was OK!

I roll my eyes at the name of this particular Toastmasters award – Competent Communicator, or CC. I’d like to think I’ve been “competent” for quite some time—after all I’ve been in the business world for (cough) a few years, I’ve run a few meetings, facilitated a few strategy sessions. Sit with me one-on-one and I’d say I’m even better than “competent”—at least “decent” if not “pretty good.”

But public speaking—giving a formal presentation—has always made me nervous. (I am not alone—depending on what list you read, fear of public speaking ranks right up there with fear of dying.) So I figured when I started my own business, I’d better spend a little time getting over that particular fear—or at least learning to hide it better. Thus, Toastmasters.

A few observations about the journey to competence…

  • Early on, I took a presentation skills class from a really good speech coach. I’ve taken public speaking classes before, but somehow in this class the messages came through differently and resonated differently. Perhaps a case of “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
  • Recently I had a chance to watch this speech coach rehearse for an hour-long keynote address. Something about the process shifted my thinking from “presentation” to “performance.” Hard to even describe what happened, but I recall a similar experience watching Olympic downhill skiers many years ago when I was still learning to ski—“Oh, that’s the rhythm/motion/flow I’m supposed to have.” The next day on the hill—way more better!
  • I’ve written about affirmations on this blog. One of my affirmations this year has been “I have a voice that others need to hear.” That shift in my mindset has helped me stop worrying about what other people think and simply focus on what I need to say—after all, they “need to hear” me. How could I refuse them? 🙂
  • I took the opportunity to read a few of my poems aloud for the vocal variety speech, which really was my first foray into “performance” rather than “presentation.”
  • I practiced this last speech a LOT. I’ll be the first to admit, most of my speeches got nowhere near this level of preparation. Our club has a tradition of giving a standing ovation for the 10th speech—so I figured I’d better earn it. And, go figure, practice made a difference!
  • Finally, the “performance” of the speech became much easier because I had some passion for the topic. Since I liked what I was talking about, my facial expressions and gestures and movements more easily reflected that. No stilted feeling of “Oh, I need to put a gesture HERE.” I was in the “flow.”

Yesterday’s poem was written a couple months back, but was part of the process to reach speech #10. Yesterday I did intone my “first true words” in a manner of speaking. I’ll try to repurpose some of those words in an upcoming blog entry. I mean, really, who would not want to read “All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Science Fiction”??

Here’s to Toastmasters—to competence and beyond!