Archive for March 17, 2015

Delivering a Speech? Three Tips for Delivering a Powerful Keynote!

Last week, a high school student read three paragraphs about my life to this point in front of 1,900 people, then asked them to give me a warm welcome.

Twenty feet away, I emerged behind him in a full suit with a wireless microphone in my hand, stared out into the bright lights hiding the audience from me, and enthusiastically asked the question I always start with: “Who’s excited to be here today!?” Then I talked to them, uninterrupted, for 35 minutes.

Delivering a keynote message is easily the most exhilarating and unique parts of my job. When I got back to my room, I texted my dad and told him about my adventure in front of nearly 2,000 people. He responded by saying “I would be so terrified. I don’t think I could do it.”

To be honest, I didn’t always think I could do it either. I remember being on the speech and debate team in high school, and the one event which always scared me too much (besides policy debate, which seemed to be nothing more than people speed reading at each other incomprehensibly like they were battling to become auctioneers) was oratory, an event which required a 10 minute prepared speech. Speaking for 10 minutes felt about as easy as swimming across the ocean. I never once did it.

Almost a decade later, not only do I present even longer presentations, but often I wish I had MORE time to really deliver the story. How I got there took a lot of work, but I figured I would share some of the tips for delivering a long speech that I’ve figured out along the way. I’m still developing my own voice as a speaker, but you can think of these as your life raft to help you get started on your voyage:

1. Tell Your Story – Now Add Details

When we think of telling stories, most of us begin with something resembling a children’s book in our minds:  “There was a person. They did a thing. They learned a lot. Hopefully you can learn something too.” The children’s book approach is a great way to start, but it won’t get you very far for the same reason you don’t bring children’s books on a plane; they’re too short (and also are for children).

Easily the hardest part of delivering a keynote is figuring out which story to tell, but once you do, you’ll have to find the details to help flesh out the message to the audience. When I deliver my Today Is A Great Day message, I tell my story of surviving cancer. But I can’t just jump in by talking about treatment. What did the world look like before I was diagnosed? What does the world look like after? In the middle, what are some of the ways, both big and small, in which life changed? These are questions which invite details, and those details often are the moments that are the funniest and most enlightening for audiences.

2. Don’t Marry Your Message

I’ve come to realize in the last few years of speaking that speeches are an art form – essentially discrete instances of performance art. Each speech is another chance to hone, to mold, and to improve both the message and delivery.

The first time I delivered the TIAGD message, I told the story as it had been experienced by me: essentially 40 minutes of describing the minutiae of treatment with 5 minutes of positive lesson tacked on to the end. The end result was OKAY, but it wasn’t until I had given it a few times and received some great feedback from my teammate Danielle that I really was able to deliver a message that seemed to resonate with both the audience and me.

Don’t be afraid to try new things with your message, to change it up based on what’s worked and what hasn’t. Last week when I gave my keynote, I took out a slide just before getting onstage which contained an especially powerful quote in my life. I took it out because reading a bunch of words had just never “landed” with the audience the way I wanted. So as much as I LOVED that part of the message, I took it out. The speech flowed smoother, and I ended up happy with the result.

Even though your keynote is your story, you’re not trying to entertain yourself (though obviously that helps). You’re trying to entertain a group of people who may not be interested in the same things as you, and your enthusiasm can only take you so far.

3. Speak As A Human First

The rush of getting up onstage after hearing your name announced is indescribable. It’s like finding out what it’s like to be famous all within the time span of 15 seconds. There are lights and applause and an audience who’s clapping for you because they were just told to do so.

What happens in the next moment is up to you.  I’ve seen a lot of different keynoters in the past decade or so, and I always love watching the tact they take to engage the audience. Some are very heavy on activities to get the audience moving, some like to emphasize theories and ideas, and some like to just dive right in and start telling a story.

As a keynote speaker, I’m still working to develop my own style, but the people who I’ve loved to watch the most as an audience member have always been the ones who were the most human in their stories. It’s easy enough to don the cape and make yourself seem like a superhero in your own telling of stories – and even easier to not really talk about yourself at all.

But the speeches that have always resonated with me the most were the ones where I watched someone else describe in vivid detail what it’s like to live life as a human – to SHOW me leadership rather than just tell me about it.  I think I love those stories the most because they seem like the most educational and inspiring, and also the hardest to tell. It’s hard to strip your life bare for others, and even harder to do it in front of hundreds of people at once. But there’s something intimate and special in those moments when it happens.

I haven’t reached that point yet in my own message, but it’s something I strive for all the time. I think for a lot of speakers, deep down they just want to be good enough that at least one person in the audience feels their life trajectory shifted just a little bit more for the positive when they walk out of the room – we were in the audience once, too, and we remember those moments where someone on stage taught us a little bit more about being a human.

Three Keys to Student Officer Success From a State Officer Alumnus!

As many students gear up for an amazing year of volunteer leadership in their organization, TeamTRI asked former Texas DECA State President Charles Hill to share a few lessons for success as an officer! Here is his advice:

If you’re just starting your term as a student officer, fear not! You have an organization full of supporters and a team of officers who are just as ambitious as yourself. As the former State President of Texas DECA, I am excited to share three powerful lessons that I learned from my experience.

1. Above all else, remember this: you have one year to serve the members and achieve your goals. Make each day count! There is always something that you can be doing to support your organization, from highlighting a recent event in a blog article to posting on the official social media platforms. You only have 365 days as an officer, so value each one! There’s not a more satisfying feeling than to look back at your term and know that you did everything you could.

2. Recognize that inspiring a shared vision is more complicated than you might believe right now. Whether it’s the creation of a year-long community service project or a workshop for other leaders, projects will always have more steps then you thought at first. Spend time talking with your officer team and delegating certain tasks to specific officers in order to simplify the process (and track these tasks in a central place like an Accountability Chart!). The time and effort you spent on your shared vision will be all worth it once you see the final product! If you work to develop your goal-processing skills as an officer, you’ll be able to use that ability successfully in school and beyond.

3. The final powerful lesson I’d like to share is that creating a new project is always nice, but improving an existing one can be equally rewarding. You probably have a few goals and plans, but don’t forget about the projects set up by the teams before you. My State Advisor once explained that a project may have been created before your term and may not be wildly successful during your term, but you have the ability to help set it up so that it can be successful for a future team after your time as a State Officer. That’s a key part of your legacy as a leader.

Each State Officer has different opportunities with unique lessons; learning from your lessons will amplify your experience. I commend you for the journey you’ve taken to become an officer: now get ready for a transformative experience!

Thanks Charles! Charles can be found on Twitter at @CharlesHillDECA.

Celebrate Read Across America Day with 10 Little-Known Dr. Seuss Facts!

“If we didn’t have birthdays, you wouldn’t be you. If you’d never been born, well then what you do? “

For many years, I had the opportunity to participate in Read Across America Day, a nationwide reading celebration that takes place annually on March 2 – Dr. Seuss’s birthday. Across the country, thousands of schools, libraries, and community centers participate by bringing together kids, teens, and books.

I have sat in front of hundreds of kids and seen the excitement that a story can bring them. However, have you ever wanted to know more about the history of Dr. Seuss? What made him decided to write children’s books?

I remember growing up as a child my grandmother and I found a bond in reading. We would spend hours reading stories together. Dr. Seuss had the same experience as a child. Every night, his mother would soothe him by chanting rhymes that she remembered from her youth. Dr. Seuss credited his mother with both his ability and desire to create the rhymes for which he became so well known. It all started with a simple rhyme at night, which led to the amazing history of Dr. Seuss. To capture all the great life of this man would be difficult in one blog post, but here are ten historical facts about Dr. Seuss that you probably do not know.

  • Dr. Seuss’ real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel.
    A grandson of German immigrants, Theodor (without an “e”) was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on March 2, 1904. Seuss was his mother’s maiden name. While the actual German pronunciation of “Seuss” rhymed with “voice,” the American pronunciation, rhyming with “juice,” stuck.
  • Before writing children’s literature, Dr. Seuss was the writer and illustrator for many corporate campaigns.
    He created advertising campaigns for a diverse range of clients including Ford Motor Company, NBC and Narragansett Brewing Company.
  • Twenty-seven publishers rejected Dr. Seuss for his children’s literature.
    After a 27th publisher rejected his first manuscript, Dr. Seuss walked dejectedly along the sidewalks of New York, planning to burn the book in his apartment incinerator. On Madison Avenue, however, he bumped into Dartmouth friend Mike McClintock, who that very morning had started a job as an editor in the Vanguard Press children’s section. Within hours, the men signed a contract, and in 1937 Vanguard Press published “And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” which launched the extraordinary literary career of Dr. Seuss. “If I had been going down the other side of Madison Avenue, I’d be in the dry-cleaning business today,” Seuss later said once in an interview.
  • Seuss was never really a doctor.
    You may already knew this fact. He did receive an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Dartmouth, in 1956. He added the “Dr.” to his penname because he father had always wanted him to practice medicine.
  • He coined the word “NERD”
    The first recorded instance of the word “nerd” is in Seuss’ ‘If I Ran the Zoo’ published in 1950.
  • He was an Academy Award winner
    Seuss was a Pulitzer-prize winning author, but he also won not just one, but two Academy Awards. He won his first Oscar for writing an animated short called ‘Gerald McBoing-Boing’ in 1951. One of his Academy Awards was for a documentary called ‘Design for Death’ about Japanese culture.
  • ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ was the result of a lost bet
    Many strange acts have results from a friendly wager. In one case, Seuss’ editor, Bennett Cerf, bet Seuss that he could not write a book using only 50 words. The result of this best was ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ which uses exactly 50 words.
  • Seuss went global!
    Seuss wrote and illustrated 44 children’s books. These books have been translated into more than 15 languages and have sold over 200 million copies around the world.
  • Seuss was a hat collector
    He once said that the book ‘Cat in the Hat’ was inspired by his hat collection. He owned hundreds of hats that he kept stashed away in a secret closet. He often enjoyed showing them off at his dinner parties.
  • The legacy lives on today…
  • Oh The Places You’ll Go” is the final Seuss book published before he passed away. Published in 1990, it sells about 300,000 copies every year because so many people give it to college and high school grads.

This March 2nd, remember to celebrate the history of a writer that continues to bring life to reading for people of all ages. And, if you haven’t read one of his books lately, go ahead and find one to explore and maybe share his stories with someone else. I believe Dr. Seuss would love for us to find the child inside each of our hearts and share his legacy for many more decades to come.