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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.
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!


[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]

That time I fell on my face (public speaking fail and how I recovered)

That time I fell on my face (public speaking fail and how I recovered)

People often ask me what to do if the worst case scenario happens on stage. You’ve probably thought about this at some point if you’ve ever given a speech. Maybe you’ve thought about someone in the audience interrupting, or a loud noise, losing your place, or anything that could distract you and throw you off  your game.


And actually, these things happen all the time. Anyone who’s been on stage will probably have some horror story. Here’s mine (and how to recover if it happens to you).

How I fell flat on my face in front of a room full of people

I have no idea how many hours of my life have been spent talking to a group of people in a formal, “public speaking” setting (I can count at least 2000, but that’s only since I’ve been keeping track). As with anything in life, if you do it enough you’re bound to a) get better at it and b) have a few… ‘incidents’.


I happen to be an ‘incident’ waiting to happen (not just on stage).


So, it didn’t necessarily surprise me when I took a major fall in front of a group of about 30 people, while delivering a presentation.


For a lot of people, this would signal a public speaking fail. Things like, falling over, tripping, sweating through your shirt and vomiting all tend to top the list of “things not to do on stage.”


Yet, there I was…. really involved in this lecture I was presenting. And when I get really into my presentations, my body gets into it. I move around a lot, I use big gestures, and I don’t pay much attention to what is happening with “me.”


I had a cute outfit on that day. Black pumps (the pointy heel kind for those of you who don’t know your women’s shoes), grey slacks that were just a bit too long so I had them hemmed up in a cuff, which might not sound cute, but actually was. (I loved those pants.)


Unfortunately, the combo of pointy high heel and cuffed pant = high percentage falling over.


I took a step closer to the audience, really worked up about something I was talking about, and stepped right into the cuff of my left pant leg with the point of my right heel. My legs tangled, I got caught, and had one of those slow motion falls to the ground. You know the one, right? Where you see it coming, but you just can’t. quite. catch yourself.


Talk about an interruption.


Here’s the thing (and I realize this might not be comforting), these things happen. I’m a person. You’re a person. The audience is full of people. And people aren’t always graceful (especially me, ask anyone who knows me). And people sometimes trip, or cough, or sneeze, or otherwise act like people while delivering a presentation.


Does this make you a bad public speaker? Or does this make this a bad speech? Absolutely not. Because, that isn’t the important thing here. The important thing is that my audience understood my message, that they connected with me, and that I was able to effectively communicate with them.


And all of that still happened, despite the interruption.


Actually, the time spent on that interruption was relatively small. We moved on pretty quickly.


How to recover from interruptions


If you’re on stage enough, you’ll encounter interruptions. Some will be out of your control, some will be all because of you. Some are major, other’s are barely noticeable. Either way, don’t stress. Here are some things you can do to get everyone refocused on your message again.


Acknowledge it

Listen, I know that the impulse is just to push through and ignore anything you may have done wrong, or any outside disruption. But don’t leave that big elephant walking around the room without anyone acknowledging it – because what happens when there’s a big elephant that no one wants to talk about? It’s the ONLY thing you can think of.


And same with your audience. Now, I’m not saying you have to acknowledge every cough, sneeze or paper shuffling that happens during your speech, but if there is a major incident (like falling on your face), people are going to notice. If you act like you didn’t, you appear to be disconnected (imagine if I just kept talking as I was picking myself up off the ground? I’d look like a weirdo, lacking personality, right?)


Acknowledging it paints you as a natural and relaxed presenter who knows your stuff so well that you can adapt – almost like you’re speaking off the cuff (even if you’re not – I wasn’t, but my audience thought I was).


View this as a conversation. Not as if you are delivering a monologue. There’s room to veer off the path for unexpected circumstances.


Acknowledging the incident can be as simple as a little smile and nod to the interruption, or a full on pause with an added joke or story. The choice is yours.


Focus on the Content

The main goal is still to communicate the message. Make sure the audience is still with you and caught up before moving forward after an interruption. Just because you were at a specific place of your speech before the interruption, doesn’t mean you have to pick up exactly there.


If the interruption caused a commotion, or was especially distracting, just do a quick recap before moving on. The audience will quickly forget and get wrapped up in your speech soon enough. Again, this is a conversation. Not a monologue. Adjust as needed.


KNOW your content

One thing I’ve noticed while working with new speakers is that a lot of people believe that if they want to sound and look natural on stage, they have to talk off the cuff. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Does it work for some people? Sure. But, they’re the exception. Not the rule. And, if you’re one of those people, you probably know it by now and have a very natural ability on stage.


To sound natural, you need to know your speech inside and out. This actually safeguards against things like losing your place or not recovering well from interruptions.


And when I say “know your content” I don’t just mean memorize the speech. I mean, know and understand the flow of the content. What are the common themes that weave through it? Know multiple examples, even if you don’t plan to use them (good for Q&A’s or expanding when needed). Know how pieces connect to each other.


If you know all of this very, very well, you’ll be able to pick up anywhere, at anytime, despite any interruption – even if it’s a major one.


How I recovered

What did I do?


Well, first I stood up – and I had to laugh because, who couldn’t? I actually told a short story to diffuse the situation about the same thing that happened the last time I wore those pants (at least that time I wasn’t in the middle of a presentation). Then, I did a quick recap and got back on track. Overall, the entire distraction was only a minute or two and was quickly forgotten (it didn’t end up on YouTube, I think that counts as a win these days?). Since I didn’t make a big deal about it, and didn’t awkwardly pretend like it didn’t happen, they didn’t view it as a big deal (mildly entertaining? Yes. Can’t believe that happened and this goes down as the WORST presentation EVER??? Not at all).


Next time you’re on stage and something tragic happens, just remember to keep your cool. Address it, focus on the message, and have faith in your expertise and knowledge on the topic. You’ll get through this!


Have questions about public speaking? With over 2000 hours of presentation time and after working with over 2000 people to help them create and deliver their presentations, I’ve seen it all. And I know how to deliver a speech that gets results. Let me know what you want to know by filling out this super-quick, one question survey and I’ll make sure I address it!


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Let’s Chat


What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done in front of a group of people? How did you recover? Let me know by commenting 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]



Position yourself for success with Faith McKinney

faith mckinney

Position yourself for success with Faith McKinney

Today, we’re talking to a guest with a very interesting story, and I thought she was perfect for today. If you’re struggling to get started because you don’t feel like you have a necessary credential – like a degree, or a certificate, or some other external indicator of credibility, this show is for you.

Faith tells us this story about how she just started working, connecting people, and positioning herself for success – and all of the opportunities that it has led to. It’s a story about starting where you are with what you have, no matter what that might look like for you.

Faith McKinney is an Expert Positioning Consultant, speaker, and author. She is known as The Great Connector. She is passionate about improving the way people get their ideas, art and inventions expressed and valued in the world through expert positioning and heightened visibility. Her book: Schmingling- The Art of Being Well-Connected Through Blatant Self-Promotion is the guidebook on how to be seen as an expert in your industry especially if you don’t have any credentials. It reveals the secrets on how to create the life you want, gain killer confidence, get compelling confidence, take control of your brand congruence and foster critical connections. Faith has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Ebony magazine, The Washington Post, books, blogs and more. Faith interviews celebrities and world leaders and she leads conferences teleseminars and retreats for entrepreneurs and speaks all over the world.

Like what you see? Tweet it out!

Did you enjoy Faith’s interview? Let her know and tell her Sandy sent you:

Connect with Faith on Twitter

Faith’s Website

Schmingling Facebook Page

Are you working on an upcoming talk or presentation? Need some help? Join our live workshop where we’ll walk through the steps you need to take to nail your next talk. Bring your materials, this is hands on! Register here – space is limited.

How to bore your audience

How to bore your audience

Every semester, I assign my students a task: present an informative speech on anything you’d like, as long as it is between 5-7 minutes.

The groans that follow are a bit overly dramatic considering the complexity of the task.

Yet, this is my favorite part of the semester. Why? It is the time that students realize that information, and the act of informing and being informed, are not boring in and of themselves. It is all up to the person presenting and the way the information is presented.

Unfortunately, we have come to associate that term – information – with long lists of bulleted points, complex technical jargon that we don’t understand and a never ending deck of blue Power Point slides that do little more than waste our time.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. And it shouldn’t be like that. Stories are much more interesting. Stories are also much more persuasive. You should use them in all of your presentations – whether you are presenting to the board or your biggest client, humans relate to narrative.

It is neither my students’ inexperience, age nor skill level that has led them to misunderstand this concept. Ask someone 20 years their senior and he or she will likely have the same thought. Rather, the problem is the inexperience and skill level of those that speak.

In order for your listeners to stop associating your presentations (and therefore, you) with boredom, you must begin to use narrative in your presentation. This is the case whether your topic is technical or common. Following is a comparison of the traditional, fact based presentation to the use of narrative.

Option 1: rely on a fact based presentation.

Fact based presentations rely mostly on statistics, facts and definitions to relay information.  Speakers often rely on this type of evidence to support their point because they are unsure how to best get their point across. The idea is further confused when people believe their topic is unique: too technical, too complex, too serious, etc. to utilize anything but statistics and facts.

The problem with relying solely on this type of supporting material is that the speaker essentially removes all trace of emotion. The topic becomes cold and distant. There is rarely a connection to the speaker in this scenario either.

So what can you do? How do you successfully convey complex, technical issues to an audience without heavily relying on statistics and facts?

Rely on a narrative

Examples and narratives are two types of supporting material that are available to you, as a speaker. It is true that you can not rely 100% on a story or an example to prove your point. It will be a weak argument. However, this doesn’t mean that you should avoid these entirely.  Examples and stories focus on human characteristics and activate human emotion. If your audience can identify with the story, the character and the situation, they will feel an emotional connection that will drive them to change their attitudes, beliefs and ultimately actions.

For the narrative to successfully impact the audience, the audience must identify with the characters in the story. A study from the Ohio State University compared the effectiveness of a news report vs. an episode of the O.C. in persuading college students to practice safe sex. As you can probably guess after reading the  first half of this post, the episode of the O.C. was more persuasive, at least for part of the audience.

As it turns out, a news report (one actually used in high schools) that outlines the struggles that teenage moms might encounter, made no impact on the attitude of the audience two weeks post viewing. However, the episode of the O.C. that told a story about a character that experienced a tough time because of a pregnancy had a significant effect on the college women that viewed it, even two weeks after the viewing. The effect was stronger when the young women felt that they could identify with the characters in the story. Those who did not identify with the characters (such as males) were not likely to change their attitude about safe sex.

This study illustrates the point that narratives are effective. They are more effective than simply stating the facts. The audience is not likely to change their minds or behavior without feeling a connection to the topic.

Ok, so teenage pregnancy is one thing. What about those of you who talk about other, less relatable topics? Like website design? Or finances? The reality is, a speaker can and should address every topic with the question, “why should the audience care?” Find that emotional trigger. In both the examples above, money is the clear choice, but often there is more. After careful analysis of your audience, you’ll find it. And, if you can’t find it, it might not work as a topic for that particular audience.

For more information about using the pentad, see this article about using narrative in your communication. 

Research in this post

Ohio State University. (2010, February 11). TV drama can be more persuasive than news program, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 27, 2014 from


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How to Organize Any Presentation (Hint: Works for webinars, videos, audio only and live presentations) with BONUS download

Did you know that when it comes to speech (including webinars, videos and live presentations), the organization of your ideas is often more important than the delivery? Assuming your delivery has no major flaws (like having so many um’s and uh’s that people start to count), a highly organized speech will influence more audience members than a speaker who has excellent delivery skills, but poor organizational skills.  Unlike writing, listeners can not back up and re-hear what you said to gain clarity. You need to have all of your thoughts highly organized – just winging it will back fire every time.

After working with many people who are about to deliver a presentation, I found that many are not only under prepared, but they often don’t even realize that there is a formula for speech. This is true for live presentations, webinars, video blogs, small presentations and formal speeches. If your information is out of order, you will fail to reach your audience. It is that simple.

Having unorganized thoughts can leave you in a situation in the future where you simply are not understood, regardless of your true expertise on the subject and regardless of whether or not you are “right”. However, there are simple formulas that the best speech writers use to create presentations. They are simple and effective. They are the most simple tools of speech writing, and if you’re not using them, you’re really missing out.

So, I decided to put together this kit to break down the process of determining the organizational pattern required for any presentation. Again, this is relevant to any vocal presentation – regardless of whether it is in person or over the web.  (As a bonus, you can also view 7 templates you can use for any presentation with full explanations as to when and how to use them – enter your email to access the download.)




We’ll cover…

  1. Determining the general goal
  2. Determining the type of speech
  3. Determining the organizational pattern that corresponds with the speech

Step 1: Determine your general goal

There are three possible goals you might have for a speech. They are…

  1. To entertain
  2. To inform
  3. To persuade

Although every speech will have elements of the other two, you will need to select your over arching purpose from the list above. Here is a shortcut to understanding the types.

If you don’t need the audience to take anything away from the speech, the goal is to entertain (like an after dinner speech, or recognizing someone for an award).

If you want the audience to remember and learn from your speech, the goal is to inform (like giving someone an update on a project).

If you would like the audience to make a decision about something, or to change their mind, beliefs or actions, the goal is to persuade (like when you are asking to increase your budget or proposing a change in policy).

Here, we’ll focus on two of these goals: to inform and to persuade.


Step 2: Determine the type of speech


Once you know what your goal is, you are in a position to make a decision about the type of speech you would like to give. To do this, consider the audience. You’ll need to determine what they know and how they feel about the topic to make sure you’re not giving them trivial, common sense information. At the same time, you don’t want to provide information that is so complex they won’t understand and/or can’t apply it to their situation. A very common mistake is a speaker feeling she/he needs to give all information about a particular topic. This isn’t the case. Keep the focus just on things that further your goal.

If you are aiming for persuasion, you’ll also want to make sure that you aren’t wasting your audience’s time by arguing something they are already on board with. Otherwise, that isn’t really persuasion. Take the time to learn their current beliefs and attitudes and aim to push them one step further. Example, if they already believe there is a problem, but aren’t sure which course of action to take, you can spend your time focused on debating which policy to pursue. If your audience already knows which course of action to take, but is stuck up on a road block, spend your time motivating them to take action. Make appropriate goals and keep all information focused on furthering that goal.

Before you can set up your presentation, you need to know which category it fits into. Use this chart to determine that category.

Types of informative presentations.

Most topics can fall under any type of speech, it is all up to you. You’ll need to keep consistent with your goals. Here are your options: a speech about objects, about a process, about an event or about a concept.

Types of Informative Speeches

A speech about an object talks about things or physical objects, people, whatever you can touch or see. A process is a series of events that leads to one specific outcome. An event is something that happens in time. A concept is something that is abstract and exists in your mind. Again, just about any topic can fit into any of these types of speeches. It is all about how you want to paint the picture for your audience and what your ultimate goal is. You are in control. For instance, if your company is moving to a new location, you can talk about this topic in a few ways. You can talk about the physical building or location – the object speech. Or, you can talk about what your department must do to move from one location to the next. Or, you can talk about the move as an event, like a grand re-opening.  Or, you can discuss it as a concept if you are in the planning stages of design. It all depends on the purpose and your goals.

This sounds simple enough, but a common mistake that I mentioned earlier is to try to cover everything and consequently losing focus. So, if the purpose of the speech is to discuss the steps your department must take in order to accomplish a successful move, you won’t want to spend time discussing the physical building, unless it is directly related to a step in that process. An example I always use to show just how silly you can sound if you get off topic is this: If someone asked you how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, you wouldn’t want to start out discussing the history of the cheese. Sound silly? Yes, but think of just how many meetings you’ve attended where someone wasted 30 minutes of your time talking about the history of the cheese. I’ve witnessed a few.

For now, just keep in mind which type of speech you have as it will inform your decision about how to organize your speech in the next section.

Before you decide how to set up your presentation, webinar or sales video, first determine what your goals are.

Before you decide how to set up your presentation, webinar or sales video, first determine what your goals are.

Types of Persuasive Speeches

If your goal is to persuade (to change someone’s mind, beliefs or actions) select from the following. This is where it can get a little more confusing. The three types are:

  1. True vs. False (or, fact)
  2. Good vs. Bad (or other value)
  3. Do this (or, policy)

The “true/false” speech is referred to as a question of fact and will attempt to change someone’s mind as to whether something is true or false. Example:  We will see an increase in sales next quarter in comparison to the previous quarter. This is a question of fact because you are deciding if this will happen or not. In a few months, you can look back and say yes this was true, or no, this is false.  Select this option if you are aiming to change the way someone views a statement as being true or false, incorrect or correct.

The “good/bad” speech is referred to as a question of value and aims to change someone’s belief as to whether something is good or bad, better or worse, just or unjust, or some other value. This deals with morals, but also can deal with any priority setting. For example: Customer service is our most valuable asset. It is a question of value because you are assigning importance, or value. Select this option if you want to change the way your audience prioritizes something.

A “Do this” speech is referred to as a question of policy and addresses a change in behavior. This is the only type of speech that addresses a behavioral change. (If you are selling something, you must select this type of speech). This is used if you either want to gain support for a new policy (passive), or if you want an individual to do something themselves (active). An example: We should allocate more money to our marketing department (passive if not speaking to decision makers) or: Buy this product (active when speaking to decision makers). Use a policy speech every time you want your audience to do something that they wouldn’t normally do otherwise.

Now that you have a goal and a type of speech, you can finally select an organizational pattern.

Step 3: Determine the organizational pattern

The most common mistake I see when selecting an organizational pattern is doing these steps out of order. You can’t possibly decide you’ll have a “topical speech” for example, if you don’t even know what type of speech you are doing or what your goals are. I have witnessed this in brainstorming sessions and in edits of speeches I edit. People too often start with the details they want to include without having a grasp on the big picture. Set your goals first. Only then can you determine how to reach those goals. If you jump ahead to this step, you will have a difficult time making the information fit together in a logical way. Let’s break down the options, depending on the answers to the questions above. We’ll start with informative speeches.

If your goal is to present information about a person or object, you may select topical, chronological, spatial or cause and effect. If your goal is to teach someone how to accomplish a process (a how to), you may select chronological or topical. If your goal is to tell someone about an event, past or future, you may select topical, chronological, spatial or cause and effect. If your goal is to tell someone about a concept, or something that exists only in your mind or is very abstract in another way, you may select topical or chronological. However, most of the time, it will make sense to select topical for a concept speech.

There are specific ways to organize a speech when your goal is to teach. Read on to learn how.

How to organize an informative speech.

Let’s go through each type of organizational pattern. (Remember too, the bonus templates are available).

The topical speech breaks down the purpose by sub-topics. Each are equal and comparable to one another. For example, if your goal is to discuss accomplishments your department made, you will make each main point an accomplishment because they are equal and comparable sub topics. Don’t try to mix other elements into the presentation. The chronological is in time order (limit 2-5 main points). The most common mistake here is trying to talk about every detail, or feeling you need to start from the beginning of time. Like all other presentations, you’ll need to have focus. Start at a relevant part for your audience and break the time frames into 2-5 manageable chunks. This will make it much easier for your audience to remember the focus and maintain interest. The spatial pattern discusses locations in space. Select this if you are discussing how object are related to each other based on their physical location. So, you could talk about something top to bottom, or left to right, or north to south. Cause and effect discusses what event led to another.  You’ll always have two main points in this pattern. Example: “Sales increased this quarter due to our newest product line.” You could break this down into two main points. First, the effect (sales increased), then the cause (new product).

Depending on your main goals, you will select a pattern that makes sense. Keep in mind to select only one pattern, don’t mix. Otherwise, you’ll sound off topic and you risk losing your audience.  For example, if you were discussing the reason sales increased last quarter, you wouldn’t want to start with the history of the new product. It isn’t relevant. If you stay on topic, your audience will become more involved and you will hold their interest.

There are specific ways to organize persuasive presentations (such as for sales webinars, videos, or live presentations).

These formulas are great for sales webinars, videos or live presentations.

For the persuasive speech, it gets a little more complicated and more structured. For the true vs. false speech, you’ll usually stick to a topical pattern. You have two options. The first option is to simply list reasons the statement you are debating is true or false. The second option is to structure it in three main points. The first, state what is now observed. The second, state how this observation came about. Third, state how this information should lead to a change in beliefs (see the bonus templates for more detail).

For the good vs. bad, you’ll use topical. However, this is a bit more structured. You always use the first main point to establish your value standards and your second to apply those standards to your topic. For instance, if you were convincing your audience that customer satisfaction should be your highest priority, you would first discuss your company’s values, then apply customer satisfaction to those values in your second main point.

For the “Do this” speech, you’ll avoid the topical and chronological speeches. Instead, opt for either problem-solution, problem-cause-solution, comparative advantage or motivated sequence. An explanation of each is found within the template that is provided, but let’s quickly discuss motivated sequence.

The motivated sequence is great for sales. It brings the audience through an emotional roller coaster with the intent of convincing them to take immediate action. The presentation starts by focusing on what the audience is missing out on and capitalizes on negative emotions and feelings of loss. Then, it slowly moves to a feeling of satisfaction, provides benefits to the audience and ends with a strong call to action. It is important to note that this pattern is extremely effective when asking the audience to take action immediately as opposed to in the future. Use this if you are in sales and you’ll improve your conversion rate without a problem (perfect for sale webinars).

And there you have it. You’ve selected the organizational pattern for your speech. By doing this, you will quickly form the layout of any speech. You can now quickly and easily “fill in the blank” to create the speech that is custom for the audience, speaker and occasion and come across as highly organized while still appearing original and creative.

Bonus: Reminder: if you want instant access to “How to organize any presentation + 7 templates for creating the perfect presentation” for free, enter your email and I’ll send it over right away. The kit is 23 pages and explains how to use each template.

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