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All posts by Sandy Donovan

Setting Boundaries in your Business (and beyond)

In some of my business groups, I’ve been seeing a lot of panicked posts about clients taking advantage of a person’s time, energy, graciousness, etc.

Here’s an example of what I’m seeing:

“Help! My clients have asked me to make another round of revisions and I’ve already spent more time on this client than I intended to. I feel like they’re taking advantage of me. What do I do?”

Have you ever felt this way? Like you had to have an awkward conversation? Or just do what the other person wants to make the client happy? Or like you just wanted to run away? 🙂

I’ll admit, most of these posts are coming from women.

I hate when that happens. I like to compete in a man’s world, and I want my fellow women to feel confident doing so, too.

But what’s irritating me even more is that a whole bunch of other women are commenting with advice like, “just quit!” or, “set boundaries!”

Both of those pieces of advice feel really icky to me. And I’m going to tell you why, and what you can do instead if you feel like you aren’t happy in a current business relationship.

Don’t Quit

Ok, maybe quit. I don’t know the circumstances, but don’t use that as your first reaction. Think about it this way… name a skill that you know nothing about. Literally nothing. For me, it might be car mechanics. Or building a house. Or web design. I don’t know these things. If I were to hire someone to complete a task for me, I’d have no idea the time or effort that it might take a professional to complete. And I won’t have a clue about the process.

Here’s an example: This happened a few years ago when my son was just a few days old. I was in no mood to do anything around the house beyond the basics. Then, the trash disposal broke. I probably could have tinkered around with it, but I decided just to call someone. The man gets there, looks at it, and tells me it will be $75. I say fine. He has me pay before he starts. I find this strange, but I pay. He takes a wrench, resets the disposal (in less than 3 seconds, seriously), and walks out. Now, had I known that he just needed to reset it (something that I could have easily done), I probably wouldn’t have paid the $75. In fact, I never would have called him to the house. I would have done it myself. But I was clueless and tired and in no mood to Google solutions to trash disposals, so I paid for it.

But it works the other way too. I recently asked a designer, who I have worked with before and trust wholeheartedly, to make a small tweak on my ecommerce site. Well… I thought it was just a little tweak. I was expecting  it to take her an hour or two at the most. Turns out, it was a major overhaul and she wasn’t even able to do it, had I been willing to pay for the time. But I didn’t know because I’m not skilled in that area.

She could have turned around and felt offended that I dare ask her to make such an enormous change for my expected budget. She could have stressed over what to say, or how to get the change done anyway. Or, she could have just quit the entire job because she felt like I was taking advantage of her.

That would have backfired on all of us. She would have lost a client, I would have stood here clueless, wondering where my great designer went.

But she didn’t. Instead, she just told me the truth. All it took was a simple conversation. It wasn’t awkward. It was just a straight forward, casual discussion.

Because, like most things, it’s all about clear communication.

So… isn’t that just setting boundaries?

I hate the term “setting boundaries.” It feels cold to me. It feels like someone is assuming others are just out to get them. Like people are just waiting to attack when clear markers and boundaries are not firmly in place.

Am I saying you should be a doormat? Absolutely not. I’m just saying that clear communication, and education, is a much better way to look at it. Boundaries keep someone from invading. Having to have a conversation with someone to “set those boundaries” feels aggressive and scary.

But it shouldn’t be. It’s not. (At least, not in a healthy relationship, business or otherwise.)

It’s just a conversation. It’s an interaction between two people. Chill. Casual. It’s nice… light. No need to make it more than it is.

My advice is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes without the assumptions that others have malicious intentions. Assume the best of others. And approach them with the intent to inform and discuss. This simple mindset shift turns a potentially scary argument into a friendly conversation that ends with everyone having a clearer sense of what’s going on.

Your client will thank you for it. And you’ll feel the relief that comes with a more balanced business relationship.

marketing story help

What to do when your story doesn’t fit the marketing mold

What to do when your story doesn’t fit the marketing mold

When I first wanted to transition from the world of academia and sales (both areas where I had been successful previously) to working online with other entrepreneurs, media-preneurs, coaches and authors, I was told by a coach that I had to have a story about how I had previously failed at speaking, and but have now discovered the formula for success – A hero’s journey story.
Many people that we hear of today in the online business world use some version of this story. I hear a lot of rags to riches or hero’s stories. And sometimes, it feels like those are the only options.
I didn’t have either. At least, not for public speaking. That’s just not how it is.
And maybe, you’re struggling with your story too.
I saw this post on Facebook a few days ago…
Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 1.06.13 PM
And it got me thinking…
Are people trying to be manipulative? Or do they just not know how to put together a marketing story? One that is both persuasive and true? Are they just feeling pressure from what they’re seeing and what they’re being told?
I tend to think most people try to do the right thing whenever they can. So, I landed on… they just don’ know any better.
If they’re like me when I first started exploring the online world, they probably are feeling pressure to make their story fit into one of these molds, even if it doesn’t feel right.
But there are other ways to tell a story! One that is persuasive and honest.
If you’re trying to create your marketing story, I’ve put together a few tips for you.
To get started – let’s start by looking at what a story actually is and why it’s so effective – this will help you identify areas of your business and life that can be storied.
First – a story is a dramatic event that focuses on one person or group – and it often ends with a lesson. 
A story is so persuasive, and so effective in sales, because it focuses on “The One” – one person, one main character, one family…. one. It isn’t about numbers. It’s about emotion and conflict, struggle, happiness, joy and triumph.
Second – a story is effective because the person who’e hearing it can imagine themselves as a character within it. 
Let’s go back to the rags to riches story. We see this story archetype a lot with online business coaches – why is it so effective? Because the coaches perfect client can identify. It’s very hopeful. The perfect client sees themselves as the “before” – and sees that they can have a happy ending.
It’s called “Identification.” It’s a method of persuasion that works because it builds trust. It makes the story teller appear to be JUST LIKE the audience – a part of the group. Not an outsider who’s preaching from a far. But just one of the girls who’s sharing what she knows. It adds a level of sincerity. Of care. It makes the audience feel like the story teller is sharing because she cares about this group so much – because she was once one of them. It breaks down the barrier between seller and customer.
But if we know why this story type works… maybe we can figure out how to create our own story that is just as persuasive – that works just as well.

To put together your own marketing story, here are the elements you need:

1. The story should be about one character and one central idea and be as descriptive and specific as possible. 
In other words, we don’t want to tell a story about how 15% of working moms have found a way to add an additional source of income. We want to tell a story about Suzie, the busy working mom with 3 kids under 7 who discovered a way to add an additional source of income that led to her reducing her hours at work and getting back her “me” time (finally).
2. The story should feature a main character who is relatable – who the audience can identify with (just as they are). 
If your audience isn’t Suzie… meaning, they’re not struggling to find their me time with a few young kids while they go to work everyday, they won’t care. Pick another aspect of Suzie’s life that might relate to the audience. Keep in mind, you can do this without feeling manipulative. No one has just one aspect of their life. Suzie might very well be a working mom with 3 children, but she also might be a loving wife, a daughter of elderly parents, a type-A perfectionist, a traveler, a yogi or a coffee junkie. Focus on the areas that your audience can identify with. People feel close to one another because of their similarities. Even when two people are seemingly worlds apart, they can often connect through basic human needs and desires. Find what can unite your audience and focus on that.
3. The story should end with a lesson, or what the character has learned during the course of the events.
Every good story has a moral, or lesson. If you’re using this story to sell something (or sell yourself), your lesson is likely going to revolve around your product or system. If your product or system isn’t the center of your story, it might still be a good story… but not a good marketing story.
4. The story should leave the audience feeling something (hope, anger, despair, joy, excitement) and that feeling should be targeted toward an object or event (example: I don’t just feel excited, I feel excited about becoming super fit and healthy). 
Decisions are made emotionally. Even by those who claim they only use logic to make decisions. Nope. It’s hardwired within all of us. It isn’t a bad thing. Adding emotion into your story isn’t manipulating, unless you rely only on emotion and not on logic or credibility, or if you use incorrect or inaccurate facts to create the emotion.
If you’re feeling stuck on your brand story, or need to beef up your next video, podcast, keynote or blog post, use these techniques to tell a great (and honest), story.
The Garden

What grapevines taught me about life, business and public speaking

What grapevines taught me about life, business and public speaking

I’m not a gardener. But I decided that gardening was a skill I wanted to learn. I bought a little piece of land and started planting. But there were these vines – these grapevines – that just overtook my plot, and frankly, they overtook me.
I couldn’t get rid of them. Every time I thought I removed them from an area, they just sprouted up – stronger than ever.
The gardeners around me were doing fine. I started to wonder what I was doing wrong. Or if I was just lacking something – a skill – that was needed for gardening.
But then something so simple, but so helpful, happened. I had a conversation with my dad about vines. And he told me how long it took him to get rid of the vines at his house. The diligence. And persistence.
Before this conversation, I didn’t think about persistence. I just thought I was doing something wrong. And I gave up.
But after I heard how hard it was to get rid of vines, and the time commitment, I felt empowered. I could do it now. I knew what to expect. I wasn’t doing something wrong. I just hadn’t kept at it long enough.
While I was standing there, digging out the grapevine roots, I thought about speaking. 
So many people underestimate the time it takes them to prepare for a speech.
And they put in the prep time they think it takes, take the stage, and get disappointing results. And then they think they’re doing something wrong. Or that they’re just not good at speaking.
But sometimes, it’s just a matter of knowing what it takes to succeed.
That’s why I’ve created a free video series to help you understand how to create, prepare for and deliver a conversational keynote. And I’ll share that wth you soon. When I do, I want you to be ready. I’m only sharing it for a limited time.
So, while it’s free, I encourage you to watch it. Here’s what I plan on sharing…
1. The secret behind great keynotes
2. 5 mistakes you’re making on stage
3. The formula for delivering jaw-dropping speech openers.
4. Creating, preparing and delivering a keynote – the complete system
It’ll go live soon. But I wanted you to be the first to know. Look out for it.
And about those grapevines? I don’t know if I successfully removed them. Time will tell. But… I know I got a lot further than I would have if I didn’t know what to expect. And, even if they do come back, I’ll be better able to prepare for them. It takes practice. Just like anything else. But….at least I know that now I’m practicing the right skills.
Update: The video series is up and ready! Check it out here. 
Connect with your audience during the first 30 seconds of your keynote

This one trick will help you connect with your audience during the first 30 seconds on stage

This one trick will help you connect with your audience during the first 30 seconds on stage

The best keynotes are personal.


A great way to form a personal connection with your audience is to talk right to them. On a personal level, outside of your speech.


But, you still want to stay focused on your content. How do you balance this?


In this post, I’ll show you my trick for connecting with the audience during the first 30 seconds that you’re on stage – I call it the Lead in Question.

Connect with your audience during the first 30 seconds of your keynote

Connect with your audience during the first 30 seconds of your keynote


The Lead in Question


The lead in question is a quick question that seemingly has nothing to do with your speech. It sounds personal. It quickly puts your audience at ease so that you can casually start your speech as if it were a conversation, not a lecture.


I started using the lead in question while I was teaching public speaking at a community college. I found that the audience, college students, were exhausted after sitting through a bunch of classes and weren’t looking forward to another lecture (probably what some of your conference attendees will feel if you’re not speaking during the first day and the first round).


So, instead of jumping right in with facts and figures, I began opening with a seemingly unrelated question. (Tweet it. You know you love it. 🙂


Usually, the question was something they could all relate to and something that could easily lead into my opening story.


Here’s an example:


Ahhhh Monday. I had a long weekend. Not quite ready for the week – what about you all?


Not directly related to my lecture, but they would drop their guard for a moment. They could respond. About something personal, not about class or tests or homework. And this will work the same for you -it gives the audience a chance to interact with you on a personal, not professional, level – even if just for a moment.


The transition


Now that you’ve asked the lead in question, you may or may not get a huge response. Depending on what you ask, you might just get smiles. A head nod. Or maybe a few people will shout something back. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Plan to transition into your opening story.


I keep it simple. My transition statement is usually something like, “That reminds me…” Or, “I was thinking about that this morning and I remembered…” Simple. Just a transition that opens it up to your opening story. Here’s an example.


Ahhhh Monday. I had a long weekend. Not quite ready for the week – what about you all? Yeah, I figured. I was feeling overwhelmed this morning and it reminded me of this funny story actually. It happened about a year ago. I was with my son….


And then I go into the story, which is now strongly connected to the speech topic.


The benefit


If used correctly, your lead in question will get your audience to lower their guard and easily listen to your story – without feeling like they’re in learning or lecture mode. They’ll be absorbed in your story, and this will help them to feel a connection to you – because now they’re involved in a conversation – not a one-way communication where you are just speaking at them.


But, the lead in question does something else, too. It helps you, the speaker, ease into a speech in a very natural and conversational way. And this can greatly help you feel comfortable and act like yourself on stage, which will help you even more as you try to form a connection with your audience. It’s really a win-win.


Your turn – I want to hear, how do you start a speech? What tricks do you use to feel more comfortable or to connect with your audience? Let me know in the comments below.


[box] Want to deliver a 100% natural and completely conversational keynote? (And by that I mean, it’ll feel as comfy as chatting with your best bud). Get the 5 Step Cheat Sheet and learn how (+ join the Very Important Presenter’s Club to get access to all the support you need for rocking it on stage). You in??[/box]

Are you the only introvert in the room?

Are you the only introvert in the room?


I have a very vivid memory from when I was a little girl (maybe 3 or 4). I was standing with my parents. My mom was talking with my uncle. He was (still is) a nice guy. But, at the time, he had a beard, a mustache and glasses. So, obviously, he terrified me.

I didn’t tell anyone that, though. Instead, whenever he’d speak to me (like he was in this memory), I’d just stare at him without cracking a smile, or making a sound. (I’m sure I was his favorite niece 🙂

Some may have identified me an introvert.

Fast forward to 2002 and you could find me on stage in front of hundreds of my peers, facilitating workshops and weekend retreats.

Some may have labeled me an extrovert.

What changed? Nothing about my personality. Actually, I’m still that shy and quiet girl in a lot of situations. (We’ll talk more about overcoming this feeling when it’s time to take the stage next week). Maybe, no one actually knew what I was. After all, you can’t really tell by looking at someone, or even by watching them interact.

As a speaker, it’s really easy to get lost in the “Do I feel comfortable? Is this making me nervous? How is this experience for me?” 

But, in reality, your keynote or workshop is an experience for everyone in the room. Not just you. And your audience is filled with introverts and extroverts alike, who all need to leave having had a great experience and taking along great memories from the day.

So how do you pull people out of their shell? How do you create an experience that inspires them to feel excited, and one that feels safe enough for them to speak up, laugh at your crazy jokes, smile, nod, raise their hand, and enjoy the interaction?

How do you create a truly engaging presentation that feels great for everyone (introverts and extroverts alike)?

In this post, we’ll talk about a 3 step process that’ll ease your audience into the comfort zone so they are ready to jump in, comment, laugh and cheer. The end result? A more powerful and memorable experience for all involved. Even you!

Warm them up

Some people will experience some butterflies in their bellies when an opportunity to speak in front of a crowd pops up, even if it’s just throwing out a quick answer from the crowd. This is especially true in a quiet room. Why not give them a chance to warm up? This way, they’re feeling confident – just like you!

To do this, encourage interaction right from the beginning, even before you start (officially) speaking. Interact with small groups or individuals before the event begins, or ask off the record questions to the group as you’re waiting for others to trickle in. These small, nonchalant interactions set the stage for a conversational workshop where everyone is ready to engage and speak up.

Be a mirror

Whether you’re aiming for laughter, tears, raised hands or out-loud replies, you can draw that out of your audience by doing it first. So, if you tell a joke, a chuckle might get the audience giggling. If you are telling an emotional story, and are truly sad, your audience will feel it too. Same goes with asking for interaction.

Here’s what you can do – as you’re asking the question, raise one hand – as you want the audience to if they agree. Or, nod your head. If they agree, they’ll nod back. Whatever response you would like, do it first. They’ll mimic you at first, but it’ll also warm them up so they’re more likely to respond that way later on.

It’s kind of like a rock concert. When the band wants you to clap along, they start clapping along. You start. Then they continue to play while you continue to clap.

Same thing. You’re a rock star. And your audience know it. (Tweet it. You know you love it. 🙂

Clap those hands and the audience will follow right along with you.

Give them a chance to make a friend

Everyone is more talkative when they have a friend along for the ride. During the first day of my public speaking class, I’d encourage students to make a friend. I would claim the reason as having a future study buddy (which is possible), but really, it was so that everyone in the room would feel more comfortable raising their hand, shouting out answers, and just have more fun in class.

You can do the same thing and sneak in a little social time by claiming anything from networking to idea collaboration. If they know each other, they’ll feel more comfortable joining in and interacting with you and the group.

So, what do you think? Are you an introvert? An extrovert? Or somewhere in the middle? What strategies have you used to pull others out of their shell during your presentations?



[box] Want to deliver a 100% natural and completely conversational keynote? (And by that I mean, it’ll feel as comfy as chatting with your best bud). Get the 5 Step Cheat Sheet and learn how (+ join the Very Important Presenter’s Club to get access to all the support you need for rocking it on stage). You in??[/box]

Your turn

How do you encourage your audience to jump in and get involved? Have you seen anyone else do this effectively? I want to hear your take below in the comments!

3 ways to manage your live, interactive workshop

3 Ways to manage your live interactive workshop

3 Ways to manage your live interactive workshop

Interactive workshops are great ways to teach an audience a new skill – and usually a lot more fun to listen to than a straight up lecture. But, there are some challenges too. One challenge, which we’ll talk about in this post, is keeping the audience on track.


As a former collegiate instructor, I know all about getting off track. Some students make a game of it! But, the longer I taught, the easier it was for me to bring them back so smoothly that they didn’t even realize I was redirecting the conversation. It just felt like – well, just that! A conversation.


For most of you, you won’t have anyone in your audience making a game out of distracting speakers that they have paid money to see. But, there are still situations in which people just get side tracked – and bring the entire crowd with them.


3 ways to manage your live, interactive workshop

3 ways to manage your live, interactive workshop

Imagine these situations, maybe some sound familiar to you?


  • That guy in the front row is waaaaaay more knowledgeable than everyone else in the audience and is asking questions that are just too technical. You want to jump right in and talk shop, but you also don’t want to lose everyone else in the dust. What do you do?
  • The entire audience is excited to share (great) and wants to participate (yay), but, as the speaker, you’re afraid you’re going to go over your time and not cover that really great stuff that you had planned to cover.
  • You know that lady who always has something to say, always has an example or the crazy story and you’re starting to wonder if she isn’t noticing that no one else in the audience is interested? You’re glad she’s comfortable enough to jump in, but you know it’s making everyone (including you) feel a little uncomfortable. You want to make sure everyone has a great experience, but you don’t want to straight up tell her to shush it. How do you handle it?


[Related: The interactive workshop formula]

Situations like this aren’t uncommon. Whether or not the audience notices, or if they just have a great time, is all up to you. It’s about guiding the conversation in a way that feels right for everyone, in a way that allows everyone to take as much as they can from it. (Tweet it. You know you love it. 🙂


If it gets out of hand, you run the risk of going over your time limit (or getting cut off too soon), or leaving your audience feeling as though they didn’t get max value from the event.


Below are some tips that I’ve used while teaching college classes and various workshops throughout the years. Use one of these methods during your next workshop to keep everything on track, no matter what the audience throws at you!


Method 1: Give them another way to express themselves


Have someone who is taking over the presentation, but still want to save face by not embarrassing anyone? Encouraging the over-sharer to express themselves in other ways, or at other times, is a great strategy. Here are some ideas.


The over-talker might just have a lot to share and not know that the rest of the room isn’t quite as interested as he is. Or, maybe he is just too advanced and the conversation is too technical for the group, but you know you can still help him. Go ahead and invite him to come up afterwards and you can have a private conversation. This will allow him to get his questions answered while you still meet the needs of the audience.


If he isn’t monopolizing the conversation, but you just have to move on, you can always offer group time to share. This works well if a lot of people are excited and want time to share their ideas or wins, too. I also find that people enjoy the networking (with a focus) time. Let everyone know that they’ll have time to share and also to collect additional ideas in just a few minutes, while you continue with the material you need to cover.


Maybe you don’t have time to chat immediately after the presentation, but you want to make sure you address everyone’s concerns (and some concerns are taking longer than others). Encourage the over-talker to jot down his thoughts and contact you later via email or social media.


Method 2: Encourage others to share


Sometimes you’ll have someone who is making great points, but is a little intimidating to others in the room, or just isn’t giving anyone else a shot at participating. Maybe they’re participating so much because they feel no one else will. In this case, sometimes just offering a chance for someone else to speak is enough. Use these phrases to get everyone in the room feeling chatty.


So and so is on point! But I want to make sure the rest of you are on track too. Who else…?


Good point! Does anyone else see that differently?


That’s a great story. Love it. Does anyone else want to share?


Method 3: Have some go to phrases to bring the attention back to the topic at hand.


If there is someone in the audience who just needs some help focusing, have some go-to phrases that you can use to bring everyone’s attention back to the topic at hand. Again, the goal is to save face. So, the words are just as important as the non-verbals. Smile. Acknowledge their contribution (verbally and with gestures and head nods), and then move on.


Practice these phrases in conversations with friends to see how they feel. Notice your natural non-verbals and what reaction you get from a friend. If they seem happy to move on, you’re doing it right. If they feel snubbed, try a different phrase that feels more natural to you, or work on making them feel heard first before trying to transition.


Absolutely! And something else that I wanted to touch on…


Wow, that is a good point. I could probably create a whole other talk about that. But for now, I also wanted to get into…


That reminds me…


It’s like you’re reading my mind! I’m going to touch on that in a few minutes so we’ll come back to that.


Yeah, great points. I have a few posts on that – see me later and I’ll make sure I get those links to you. For now, I just want to touch on this next point because I think you’ll find it really helpful.


As you work with these techniques, you’ll feel more and more comfortable using them, and your audience will feel more and more comfortable receiving them. Soon, it’ll feel natural and easy-breezy!


Your Turn

How do you handle audience interaction? Do you try to control it or just let it take it do what it does? I’d love to hear your take in the comments below!


[box] Want to deliver a 100% natural and completely conversational keynote? (And by that I mean, it’ll feel as comfy as chatting with your best bud). Get the 5 Step Cheat Sheet and learn how (+ join the Very Important Presenter’s Club to get access to all the support you need for rocking it on stage). You in??[/box]

Create an example bank to guard against on stage disasters

One trick to manage your keynote Q&A session

One trick to manage your keynote Q&A session

There are some experiences in life that you just can’t be too prepared for. A live speech is one of those things.

One place in which I see speakers drop the ball is when an audience member asks a question.

Sometimes it’s tough to think on your feet! Especially in front of a few hundred people.

Even if you know the answer, you might get tripped up in deciding how much detail to go into at that moment, or trying to decide what background info that person needs to know. There are a lot of split-second decisions to make in front of a lot of people. And, if you already feel a little anxiety, it’ll all just feel worse.

But, with just a little extra preparation, you can guard against this and appear professional and knowledgeable even when the audience throws something unexpected at you.

Create an example bank to guard against on stage disasters

Create an example bank to guard against on stage disasters

What is this extra prep? It’s an example bank. A collection of examples that you can pull from to ask a variety of questions so you’re ready for anything.






Gather examples


The first thing to do is gather a list of examples that you have on hand. If you already have a blog, podcast or vlog, this should be easy. Just pick ones you already use on a regular basis. Also take note of those you find yourself using in everyday conversation with clients.


Then, match these examples with a broad category of questions. For example, I know that people ask me about how to speeches a lot. I have a go to example about how to make mac & cheese that I use frequently. It can be adjusted for just about any how to speech question.


Outline the example

Take a minute to outline each of your examples. This is basically just a way for you to pick out the main points that you want to highlight so that when you’re on stage you’re not left searching for the words to explain this example. It’ll already be in your memory bank.

[Related: 5 Tips to help you handle unexpected situations while on-stage]

Create back-up slides


If your example is best explained visually, keep some extra slides at the back of your deck, or near where you’ll be discussing the point related to this example. And if the audience needs some extra explanations, you’ll have something ready to go.


If someone asks me a question that I feel could use another example, I’ll just quickly flip to the slide and walk through the example. This little trick makes you look extra prepared. (Tweet it. You know you love it. 🙂


Your turn – what’s your tip for appearing extra prepared and guarding against unexpected questions on stage? I’d love to hear in the comments below!


[box] Want to deliver a 100% natural and completely conversational keynote? (And by that I mean, it’ll feel as comfy as chatting with your best bud). Get the 5 Step Cheat Sheet and learn how (+ join the Very Important Presenter’s Club to get access to all the support you need for rocking it on stage). You in??[/box]

Should you script your keynote?

To script or not to script, that is the question! OR – Should I script my keynote?

Should I script my keynote?

I wouldn’t say that speaking or communication in general is a highly controversial topic, but if there is anything that stirs a controversy, it’s this.


To script, or not to script?


Although I have a very strong opinion for beginning and intermediate speakers (script. Absolutely script.), I think there is some wriggle room for advanced speakers and some exceptions to the rule.


I do, however, think that a lot of new speakers who decide not to script make that decision based on some questionable info.


So, in this post, I’m going to bust the top 4 myths about scripting so you can decide for yourself if you’d like to script or not.

Should you script your keynote?

Should you script your keynote?

Myth: Scripting = robotic, boring, inauthentic delivery


I’m a big fan of scripting your speech. I’m not, however, a big fan of sounding like a robot. Luckily, one doesn’t lead to the other! In fact, if done right, having a well thought out script will actually help your delivery sound 100% natural and completely conversational, not hurt it.

Yes, of course I’ve heard people reading from a script, word for word, with no emotion. And no, it isn’t fun to listen to. Unfortunately, they give all scripters a bad name.

But here’s the truth, scripting a speech doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stick to that script – word for word. (And you definitely won’t be reading from it).

Just like using a calendar to plan out your day, using a script to plan out your speech gives you freedom. It makes it much easier for your to remember to hit your main points, use your keywords and stay on track – while also giving you freedom to veer away from that script when needed (for questions or interruptions) while still having a plan to get back on track.

So why bother scripting if you won’t stick to it word for word?

I find that having written out my ideal version of the speech helps me stick pretty close, rather than practicing it a different way each time (and I’ve found this to be true for way more than the majority of the over 2000 people I’ve taught so far – you’re probably not the exception to this rule, even though it’s really tempting to think you are). It stops me from searching for the right word, or the right way to describe something while I’m on stage (and when nerves can cloud thinking).


Myth: A scripted speech keeps you from going deep and being vulnerable


This is something I saw on a Facebook post in one of my biz groups recently. Some people argued that if a speech or conversation was scripted, it kept the speaker from going deep into their personal story and kept the answers too ready-made and calculated.


I don’t agree at all. If your goal is to get vulnerable, script a speech that does that! Having time to go back, review and edit your speech will allow you to see which areas need more work – or an emotional boost.


You can take the time to add in depth descriptions and elaborate on feelings. It allows you time to reflect and uncover additional memories that might not pop into your head if you wait until the very moment that you’re on stage to think fully through the story.

Plus – you can always add to your story in the moment if it strikes you. But at least you have an idea version to fall back on if your mind goes blank on stage.

Think of it this way. Have you ever been in an argument with your spouse or significant other and had nothing to say? You just knew you had better points, but in the heat of the moment, you couldn’t think of examples or a logical explanation for why you feel the way you do, or why you did what you did, or why you’re just right, darn it!?


Then…. 20 minutes later, you’re sitting there and all of those examples rush back. And you realize how much better you could have explained yourself if you just had all of those thoughts available to you at the time.


Same thing here. You have a better chance of reaching your goals – whether that is becoming vulnerable or clearly explaining a process – if you give yourself a chance to access those thoughts ahead of time.

Myth: A scripted speech leaves no wriggle room for the unexpected

You’ve probably seen a speaker who was sticking so tightly to a script (probably because of nerves) and then when something happens in the room, they completely ignore it – like a fire alarm going off, or a raised hand – because they just can’t go off script. It’ll throw them off.

And maybe this has stopped you from scripting your speech – because you don’t want to look like that. You want to respond like a human!

But here’s the thing – that person isn’t a great example. It wasn’t the script that keeps them from responding, it’s a lack of preparation (which leads to a whole lotta anxiety!)

When you know your speech inside and out, you’re able to jump away from it and then jump right back in without missing a beat.


The key is to know your speech beyond the script, not to rely on that script like you would a book you are reading from. (Tweet it. You know you love it 🙂


Again, the script will give you a plan – an ideal way to deliver your message without having to think about it on the spot. That doesn’t mean you should rely on it to actually deliver your speech in the moment.


Knowing your material (what you plan to say + additional examples and explanations) will help you deliver a clear and off the cuff (looking) speech.


Myth: By scripting your speech you’ll look unprepared or inexperienced


Nope. Not at all!


If you take a look at really well received speeches – ones that the audience has an emotional reaction to – we’ll often see that they were very planned – to the word.


Unless you’re a complete natural (and a bit of a poet), and can think in rhymes and rhythms, similes, metaphors and alliteration, you’ll just never get the same effect by speaking off the top of your head that you will from a well thought out speech.


You’ll also run the risk of rambling, or not fully explaining your thoughts. All of which will make you look completely unprepared.


So, how do you look professional? By succinctly explaining your points. By creating visualizations of your stories. And by forming an emotional connection with the people you’re speaking to. And that doesn’t all happen on accident. It takes planning.


Again, I’m a big fan of planning and scripting. I create an outline for all of my one-on-one clients – it helps us work through the stories, examples and points so that we know we’re on point and well prepared.


But, I’d love to hear from you! Do you use a script? If you don’t, what are some pointers you have for keeping organized and well prepared? If you do use one, give us a tip for working with a script so that you don’t sound like a robot! I’d love to hear in the comments below!


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How to facilitate an interactive workshop

Use this simple formula to facilitate an impressive interactive workshop

Use this simple formula to facilitate an impressive interactive workshop

So you want to teach your audience a new skill, but you don’t want to come across as the know-it-all, bossy and distant speaker – you want it to be fun, right?

Got it. There’s a way you can do it, and I’ve got a formula for it.

I learned this formula through trial and error while I was lecturing at a community college. I wanted to find a way to get the message across, because I felt that what I was teaching was really useful in the real world (public speaking), but I also knew that, coming into it, students were dreading public speaking. So, I had to make it fun and interactive so that they would both enjoy it and remember way more than they would otherwise.


facilitate impresive interactive workshopI ended up combining the skills I already was teaching with the college’s philosophy of teach, show, let them try. And this is what I came up with. It’s simple, but effective. Check it out!






Of course, we always want to start out with an opener. The goal here is to prime the audience. Just like you might have a pre-speech ritual to help you warm up, they’ll need some time to prep themselves for speaking and interacting with each other and with you. Give them the chance to do that here.


Start out small by encouraging them to shout back or raise their hand or even just nod in agreement. Ask simple questions that have a simple “yes” answer. They’ll start getting into it and begin to warm up their vocal chords.


You could also give them a chance to interact with the people around them briefly by just introducing themselves. This way they have a friend moving forward!


Step 1


After you prime the audience, you’ll want to jump right into your first step in your process – the first thing they’ll need to do if they’re learning this new task. A mistake I sometimes see here is that speakers will give too much unnecessary info before going into this step. But, usually, we don’t need all the background stuff or the history of this process – just jump right in with step 1!


Tip: For this step, just summarize your step in one, clear sentence. Example: Step 1, do this.




This is where you tell the audience what to do. Give them any tips they need, or special instructions. If they need to understand any theory to get this step right, explain it here.


Show them


Pick an example or two that you can quickly and easily show them. Think about using additional media for this – maybe a video would work best, or just a picture. Whatever you need to demonstrate this step, use it. Remember, your goal is clarity.


Let them try


Here is where the “interaction” comes in. Let them actually work on this themselves. This is also a great time to answer any questions they might have. Because they are actually trying it right after you explain it (rather than a few days later), they’ll know right away what they understand and what they don’t understand and this gives them a better shot at figuring it out, applying it, and asking relevant questions right there on the spot.



Follow steps 2-4 until you cover all of your steps. Make sure to keep your steps at 5 or under, otherwise it starts to get too overwhelming for the audience – too much to remember later.


This might take a little tweaking on your part. Maybe you typically break it down into 7 steps, so you’ll have to reorganize here to get just 5.




Finally, finish up the workshop with some closing remarks. Keep it short and focused. All you really need to do is review the why, and the major steps. If you’d like, you can take questions and then finish up with your closing remarks.


That’s it! That’s the simple formula for creating interactive workshops. (Tweet it. You know you love it. 🙂


Your turn – have you run a successful interactive workshop before? Give us your tips for running a smooth and successful workshop in the comments below! I’d love to hear!


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When can you break the rules during your speech?

When it’s ok to break the rules during your speech

When it’s ok to break the rules during your speech

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to go down to San Diego for, what turned out to be, one of the best weddings I’ve ever attended.


It’s always fun to see the best man speech. You never quite know what they’ll come up with.


This one was exceptionally interesting. There was serenading, a change of clothes and a flash dance mob.

But it worked. And it got me thinking, when is it ok to break the rules during a speech? There’s a fine line between creativity and an awkward, uncomfortable performance. You don’t want to land on the wrong side of that.


When can you break the rules during your speech?

When can you break the rules during your speech?

In this post, we’ll look at some things that you need to understand before you try to get too creative and “speak outside the box.”


Understand the goal


This is crucial. I’ve talked about goals before, but it really does apply to just about anything you do as a speaker. If you don’t know what you want out of the experience, or what the audience should take from the experience, you won’t know what to do.


Start with your goal. Your purpose. Then work your way backwards. This is much better than starting out with, say, a joke or a funny story and trying to squish it into a speech that it doesn’t belong in.


For example, if your goal is to shock the audience, you can search for a shocking joke to include. It makes sense. It’s what you’re going for. But, you wouldn’t want to start building a speech from a shocking joke and then try to fit it in to the bigger picture if your ultimate goal is to bond with the audience. It won’t work.


When you are beyond comfortable with your topic, situation AND skill set


If you’re feeling unsure about your ability to speak on the topic or if you’re unsure about your skills as a speaker, don’t risk stepping outside the box. I’m all about pushing limits and taking on challenges, but this isn’t something you want to risk because, more often than not, it’ll end up feeling really icky for the audience.


Trying to make risky jokes or do something outrageous won’t work if you are feeling uncomfortable. The audience will sense it. And they’ll feel that uneasiness themselves. That’s when things get awkward.


But, if you know that you’re comfortable and that putting yourself out there and telling outrageous stories or jokes won’t bother you, then go for it. If you’re comfortable, the audience will feel comfy too.


When you aren’t sacrificing clarity


Clarity is always important. If your message becomes fuzzy by adding in something risky or off the wall, it’s better to leave it out.


If the audience is left feeling like… um… where did that come from? They’re not going to focus on the rest of your message. (Tweet it. You know you love it 🙂


Unless your sole purpose is to entertain (which it rarely is), then you still have a message to deliver. You still have a goal. Don’t distract from it.


But… if your joke or story supports your goal, and makes it easier for your audience to remember and understand it, then go for it! Entertaining is fine (and appreciated), as long as it doesn’t become distracting.


Your turn

In the comments below, let me know about a time that you broke the rules and it felt really good! Or, let me know when you saw another speaker break the rules and how that worked.


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