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Editor's Corner
Excerpted from the February 2005 Newsletter

Practicing Your Impromptu Skills

In the last issue, I spoke about not starting to speak until your mind is in gear. An exercise we do in the seminars is a good way to practice getting focused before speaking.

Some of you will remember being in front of your classmates and choosing a card that had a word such as "shoe," or "clock". Your task was to ignore the class, get into your own focus zone, and come up with an experience in your life (something that happened more than 2 years ago) and tell that story. There was no time limit on your coming up with the story.

While it's not the same as doing it in front of an audience, you can practice this on your own. It's a really neat family activity which will help both you and your kids (grandkids, nephews, nieces). Just choose generic words that are part of everyday life. And take your time focusing and finding your experience. Making up stories defeats the purpose of the exercise.

You can also practice by yourself. Just choose as your word the first ordinary object your eyes land on. It gives you the chance to practice focusing when just moments before you weren't.

Every skill you strengthen will make you just that much better the next time you have the opportunity to speak.

Dear Teach

Larry Bennett, Smart & Final, Marketing Manager:

"Shortly after taking your class I had to speak in front of everyone in the company--a LARGE audience, including senior executives--and with no slides. Before taking your class, I would have died if I'd had to do that. But it actually went just fine.

"The morning before I was to give that speech my immediate boss and the senior VP called me into his office. They wanted to see a copy of my speech, the overhead PPT's and presentation. You should have seen their faces when I told them I had nothing to show them. They knew that the company president, chairman of the board, and other senior execs were attending and all they could do was trust me.

"It wasn't until about three years later I was rereading the performance review from that year. The woman who was my boss at that time mentioned that speech in my review and that I hadn't used notes or PowerPoint. All of this again was because of you."

Keeping Panels On time

Question: “How do you keep panel members' presentations on time?”

Answer: That can be sticky if you have little control over the meeting or over the panel members.

Try to stop the problem while you're in the planning stages. When the speakers are announced, or shortly thereafter, outline the ground rules. Give them a (personal) benefit for staying within (or under) the given time frame, and also the mechanism by which you're going to help them do so.

Identify the signal you'll give when they're almost out of time (giving enough time for them to gracefully wrap up), as well as what you will do when they're finished. A flashing light, a hand signal, a colored card, can be your signal. The final action will be something more overt. Tell them that in the interest of getting everyone out on time, or of giving enough time for questions, that you'll physically interrupt in some way: stand up, ask a question, something that can't be missed but that's not embarrassing.

If you do this in the planning stage, as well as just before the meeting, and use some argument such as, "Don't you hate it when meetings run over?" Or, "I imagine you've been uncomfortable at some time when a speaker didn't stay within the time frame, so we want to make sure that doesn't happen to this audience." Or, "We've had speakers in the past that had a problem keeping track of their time so we didn't have time for questions, so we've found a way to avoid that."

You can also offer to time their presentations for them prior to the meeting as a benefit you're offering them.

All these messages need to be delivered in a friendly, straightforward, no nonsense way, so they're clear you mean what you say. Friendly, and with a sense of love for the audience and the speakers in not wasting anyone's time.

Quotes to Make You a Better Speaker

Them that's going, get on the wagon. Them that ain't, get out of the way. —The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., quoting a Georgia preacher

A man never discloses his own character so clearly as when he describes another's. —Jean Paul Richter

Truth is shorter than fiction. —Danny Thomas

Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth. — John F. Kennedy

Throw your heart over the fence and the rest will follow. — Norman Vincent Peale

In an age short on craftsmanship and long on shoddiness, anything done well--laying bricks, playing games, or even writing press releases--should be admired. —George Will

A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled. —Sir Barnett Cocks

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. —Winston Churchill

How long should a speech be? As long as it's good. As soon as it stops being good, it should end. —Soundings

Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake somebody up. —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

You can't plant a seed and pick the fruit the next morning. -- Jesse Jackson


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

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Speeches on Tape:
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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:

Barbara Rocha and Associates

PO Box 60521, Pasadena, California 91116

(626) 792-8075

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