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Editor's Corner
Excerpted from the December 2009 Newsletter

Using More Vivid Words

I once heard a speaker talking about avoiding a particular action when skiing in powder because it could have "serious negative consequences." When asked what that meant he said, "You could die."

It's so easy to fall into speaking in generalities, especially when we're being careful to sound appropriately businesslike. Yet the difference between "serious negative consequences" and "you could die" is the difference between a clear, unambiguous message delivered to a fully- focused audience and one struggling to stay with you, or at best, giving you a kind of benign and "general" approval rating.

We listen better to vivid, visual words. Words we can easily picture and quickly process.

Your audience will respond to and absorb more when your words (and your slides) are more visual.

Speakers sometimes worry they might go too far with words that capture the audience, that "their audience" won't respond well unless it's appropriately generic. It is possible to go too far, but in over 30 years of working with speakers, I've had maybe one or two people that might have had a problem with this. You probably aren't one of those people. And if you're worried, call me and I'll tell you what I think.

Put yourself in the audience's place, recognize them as human, and choose the most descriptive, active way of making your point. Ignoring this advice could have "serious negative consequences."

First Person

Len Wong, Customer Retention Manager, Toyota

The course I took with you was the 4th or 5th public speaking class that I had taken, and it has turned out to be the most effective and helpful one. Your advice was easy to understand and useful. Your book, "Getting Over Yourself, A Guide to Painless Public Speaking and More," is a great reference (I keep it at my desk, in easy reach).

Two recent presentations to executive level audiences (one within my industry and one from many industries) gave me a chance to put what I learned to the test. (At the industry conference, I spoke on the subject of how we help our dealers get and keep customers.)

To help get myself organized I went back to what you said about focusing on what the audience needs and what they would find useful for their own businesses.

It's a subject I know well so when I stayed focused on helping the audience it cut way back on my stage fright. In a very short time, I felt like I was chatting with a (large) group of friends that wanted to know more about an area I know intimately. As a result, I enjoyed these presentations.

Following the presentation, there were lots of questions, and many people continued asking questions even though my time was up. (I took that as a good sign.)

Afterward, I heard good things about my talks from both attendees and the conference organizers.

PLUS, because of these efforts, we met our overall goal of improving customer satisfaction and keeping our dealers profitable.

Thanks for your help. I'd recommend you for anyone who wants to communicate effectively, and become more comfortable in front of any audience.

Doing Humor Right

"What should you be aware of when using humor?"

Most audiences like a bit of humor but not necessarily jokes. What works best for most regular speakers is to have a light touch and not take yourself too seriously. Respect your audience, your subject, and yourself, but don't take yourself too seriously.

I've observed that speakers who are at ease and not trying to be someone else or trying to impress the audience find the light touch comes naturally. It's the speaker's freedom that carries the day.

The speaker's natural humor rises to the surface and engages the audience. When you feel easy, funny things often occur while speaking that can be quite effective.

If you're not a funny person and funny things don't spontaneously occur to you when you're with your friends, then humor may not be the way you'll connect with your audience.

If you plan humor, be leery of actual jokes, unless you are really good at telling them. And know that the longer the joke is, the funnier it better be. Plus, you need to be able to connect it to your topic soon after telling it. No gratuitous joke telling. If it doesn't help you make your point, leave it out. Likewise, leave it out if there's a possibility of offending someone.

Funny things that happen at work, with clients, customers, in the board room, are easier to remember and tell than jokes are, and usually lend themselves to being relevant to your point.

So, getting over yourself (not taking yourself too seriously), and watching for humor in life that connects to your point or even helps make that point make a good foundation for using humor.

Quotes to Make You a Better Speaker

“Blowing out another's candle will not make yours shine brighter.” Unknown

“All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The problem with doing nothing is not knowing when you're finished.” Benjamin Franklin

“Success is not counted by how high you have climbed but by how many you brought with you.” Wil Rose

For more great quotes, check out these websites:


Think gifts. Someone you know is going to be giving more presentations soon. Give them a practical gift that will make those presentations easier and more effective. Learn more or Order Online.

"Getting Over Yourself: A Guide to Painless Public Speaking...and More" by Barbara Rocha 208 pages, illustrated, cartoons $19.95

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The "Getting Over Yourself" book on audiotape read by the author ($17.95) or CD ROM ($19.95).

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"Pocket Guide for Presenters"
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"60 Ways to Spark Your Speaking: Just in time answers to frequently asked questions"
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"Love to Talk/Hate to Speak: Selected articles by Barbara Rocha"
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Speeches on Tape:
"From Bored Room to Board Room" $10.95
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"Getting Over Yourself: A Guide to Painless Public Speaking" featuring Barbara Rocha in excerpts from her book, seminar classes and interactive coaching. VHS $99.95

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**How to Overcome the Stress of Public Speaking
Pasadena: 3-day workshop October 25, 26, 27, 2010.

We have two public seminars each year: May and October/November. If you have several people who could use this training, contact us regarding an in-house seminar.

As a refresher, workshop graduates (from any of our 3-day workshops) may attend for half price at any time. People tell us they get as much or more out of the workshop the second time around.

Visit our seminars section for details or call (888) 800-2001

For more information, contact:

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PO Box 60521, Pasadena, California 91116

(626) 792-8075

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