Have the Courage to ComplimentPraise is powerful and under the right circumstances it can be transformational unlocking the human potential. You might think I’m exaggerating the effects of a simple and sincere compliment, but evolution and science is on my side.

Why You Don’t Compliment

Our brains are wired to pay more attention and give more weight to negative experiences as opposed to positive ones. Cavemen and women learned to stay safe from daily dangers (a.k.a. negative and life-threatening experiences) and have evolved to meet new social fears emerged. Here are the top three excuses for why you don’t compliment:

-   I’m shy.

-   They already know.

-   I don’t know what to say.

I’ll override these objections in order: 1) Compliments are a low risk and offer high returns, which is an excellent way to overcome your shy social anxiety. 2) Most people love to hear how well they did and often rarely receive positive feedback. 3) You’ll learn how to give a compliment in less than a minute in a few paragraphs.  

Benefits of Compliments

Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Compliments will boost the confidence, self-esteem and respect for both the giver and receiver. Simple positive feedback can truly be all that stands between someone being successful and giving up. Beyond the basic feel good factor, here are the top three reasons to praise:

-   Encourage strugglers to achieve.

-   Reinforce learning a new task.

-   Strengthen relationships.

Offering an accomplished person a compliment can lead to self-improvement and finding a mentor. “I really enjoyed your presentation today. How did you get so comfortable with public speaking?”

How to Give a Compliment

Without delay, here are the steps to take in order to provide a heartfelt compliment:
 

1.   Pick a person. It can be a coworker, mailman, secretary, boss, teacher, stranger, friend or enemy. Use their name as it conveys respect and because most people appreciate hearing their own name.

2.   Find a feature. Characteristics can be concrete or intangible like a smile, sunny disposition or hairstyle. If your praise is vague, it can sound insincere so be specific.

3.   State with sincerity
. Only give a compliment when you actually mean it otherwise it will fall flat. Unearned praise is false flattery and can be perceived as manipulation. Honest comments ring the bell of truth and are valued above all.
 

Examples of compliments:

“Barbara, that’s a lovely blue coat you’re wearing.”

“Pamela, I admire your ability to provide insightful editing.”

“Steve, I appreciate you support more than Santa appreciates chimney grease.”

 

Courage to Compliment Challenge

I challenge you to compliment a different person every day this week.

1.  Your Spouse or Significant Other

2.  Family Member

3.  Close Friend

4.  Work Associate

5.  Local Business

6.  Restaurant Staffer

7.  Complete Stranger

Make magic in less than a minute by giving a genuine compliment and create an everlasting smile. 
 

Your Turn: What compliments have you recently shared?  

 

 

Tasteful Toasts DoublespeakLast month my brother Steve and I went to see famed actor, comedian and magician Harry Anderson perform at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, Calif. You’ll remember Anderson from his American television sitcoms: an eight-year stint as jocular Judge Stone on Night Court or as con artist “Harry the Hat” on Cheers. A talented talker of doublespeak, Anderson’s performance prompted me to warn you of how silver-tongued speakers can scam you into buying something that seems to be a good deal but is truly bogus. The best defense against this trickery is to expose their secret language.

 

What is doublespeak?

Doublespeak is the name for language which makes the bad seem good, the negative appear positive, and the unpleasant attractive. It deliberately deceives, disguises, distorts, camouflages, misleads, inflates, circumvents, and obfuscates. Confused? A few examples will clear things up.

 

Politicians, publicists and the press are the kings and queens at spinning stories:

  • Airplanes don’t crash, they have “uncontrolled contact with the ground.”
  • You’re not unconscious during surgery, you’re just in a “non-decision-making state.”
  • Hospitals don’t have people that die, they have “negative patient care outcomes.”

 

Job seekers write creative career titles on resumes:

  • Janitors are “Custodial Engineers.”
  • Car mechanics are “Automotive Internists.”
  • Elevator operators are “members of the Vertical Transportation Corps.”

 

Defrauders escape through legal loopholes by emphasizing the first and last key words:

  • They buy and sell “solid fools gold.”
  • They use the best “genuine faux leather.”
  • They only import “real counterfeit diamonds.”

 

None of these people are lying to your face: they are telling you the truth with verbose verbiage to communicate a specific message.

 

Defend yourself from doublespeak by learning to listen to all the words that tumble and mumble out of mouths. Be mindful and study the incoming message instead of just mentally “sitting back” and believing all you hear.

  

Your turn: What doublespeak terms have you heard?  


 

Learn what to do after you forget something or someone important.

I stood embarrassed like a monkey’s uncle on the stage at a family celebration when I forgot to formally acknowledge my cousin David’s engagement to his sweetie-pie Amy. Fact: every speaker, from emerging emcee to professional presenter, will encounter a lapse in memory and forget to mention something or someone important. These times of forgetfulness – known as senior moments to the older generation and brain farts to the younger – can be reduced to a minimum, but never completely avoided (see Murphy’s Law). Learning to bounce back from a blunder is a crucial skill to master. The following fundamental formula leads to success and will take your FARForegive, Acknowledge andRebuild.

FORGIVE Yourself

When you make an omission, which I call “Ginko Goofs” – named after the great memory aid ginko biloba, accept the fact you made a mistake and forgive yourself. The more you say “I’m perfect” or “I never make a mistake” means you’re in true-blue denial and your pending ginko goof will be gigantic.

It’s vital to release the self-imposed guilt, which is easier to write than do, but I was finally able to let it go…the next day. I can’t change the past, but I can fix the future.

ACKNOWLEDGE the Ommission

Had I realized my gaff, I would have politely acknowledged my ommission and made amends. A simple and effective explanation of, “My adrenaline was pumping so fast that my brain short-circutted like Homer Simpson: Doh! I forgot to recognize my cousin David, who’s adrenaline is pumping harder and faster because Amy just said ‘Yes’ to his proposal. Amy, please pardon him for any mental malfunctions that might occur in the next 72 hours.”

But I didn’t grasp the depth of my ginko goof until much later. Double Doh! No way to fix my faux pas infront of family and friends. David and Amy must have felt unappreciated or unimportant when the exact opposite is true. What to do?

REBUILD the Friendship

The top question to answer is, “How can I rebuild the relationship after I falter?” Simple and direct tends to work best, so I called my cousin and apologized. David said, “It's all good. I think everyone has forgotten someone during a speech at one time or another.” Classy.

Another option is to give special attention to the person(s) after the fact. Ask yourself, “Where’s the opportunity in the mistake?” Besides, a life without a few ginko goofs is, well, boring.


Your turn: How have you overcome a ginko goof?

 

“I don't like the way I sound.” is a common complaint I receive from timid toasters followed by, “And there isn’t anything I can do about.” Wrong. You can quickly and easily transform potential shame into brilliant fame when you learn how to breathe.

What Goes Up

Audiences tend to tune out talkers when they hear high-pitched voices. The sometimes schrill sound is associated with being apprehensive, anxious or afraid. There are a few infamous exceptions like Victoria Jackson, Fran Dresser, Richard Simmons and Mike Tyson who can get away with the squeak, but most listeners can only tolerate the whine in small doses.

If you rarely stand up and speak before a crowd you may feel nervous or rushed – real or self imposed – and your body will respond with a tiny squirt of adrenaline, which forces your body to take a short breaths before you speak causing your “normal” voice to turn up, high and tinny. 

Must Come Down

When you harness your lung’s language you will be able to produce the tone you desire. There are many different deep breathing exercises to counter act the adrenaline and I this two-step techinque is my favorite.

1. Breath in quickly through your nose and fill your lungs for three seconds.

2. Exhale through your mouth and push up with your stomach muscles for six seconds.

I prefer this method because it can be completed in secret. I do this before I take the stage or on my way to the microphone –even when all eyes are on me. It appears that I am merely collecting my thoughts before I begin.

This simple two-step process also releases nervous energy and puts you back in command of your voice with more control, power and energy.

Yes, breathing is basic, but it’s frequently overlooked. Proper air exchange is essential for the occasional toaster or professional speaker and an easy habit to learn. Once mastered you will control the flow of oxygen naturally allowing you to breathe and be brilliant.


Your turn: What breathing techniques do you like to use and why?


Tasteful Toasts Tongue Twister

Count Dracula had a noticible foreign accent and Frankenstein mumbled. Both could have improved their speaking abilities and been less frightening if they had practiced saying a tongue twisters before greeting others. Speaking with proper enunciation, articulation and at a comfortable rate of speed for your presentation style can calm your nerves, improve the quality and clarity of your speech, as well as fully engage your audience.

Tongue twisters are frequently used in speech therapy for adults, foreign language students, and children to help overcome the four main articulation disorders: Substitutions, Omissions, Distortions and Additions – a.k.a. SODA.


Try the following twisters to test and tame your tongue – it’s therapeutic!


The Rules

To get the most out of your tasteful Halloween tongue twisters:

1. Say each tongue twister slowly, pronouncing each word clearly and correctly.

2. Pick two or three tongue twisters per day and repeat slowly three times each.

3. Gradually say the tongue twisters faster, stopping if you trip over words.


Substitutions (R, V and W) – Sounds of a letter replaced for another, like “w” for “r” in “wabbit” for “rabbit.”

 

  • Rabid rabbits ran around the rugged rocks.
  • Vernon Vampire visits various vampires virtuously.
  • Werewolves watch witches wandering in the woods.


Omissions (B, D and H) – Sounds in a word that are completely omitted, like “han” for “hand.” 

  • Brad Bat bit bad black bran bread.
  • Dracula digs dreary dark dungeons.
  • The headless horseman hunts with horrible howling hounds.

 

Distortion(G, S and TH) - Incorrect sound causing a frontal lisp, as in “sip” for “ship.”

  • Giant, green, gross goblins ghoulishly giggle.
  • Spiders spin spacious webs in spooky houses.
  • He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts.


Additions (F, M and P) - Extra sounds/syllables added to the word, like “animamal” for “animal.”

  • Frankfurters fried in fish fat taste fresh and fine to Frankenstein.
  • Many mournful mummies moan for their mommies.
  • Professional pumpkin pickers are prone to pick the plumpest pumpkins.


Did you tax your tongue until it twisted? Terrific! The next time you tell a tongue-twisting tale, think of Tasteful Toasts.

 

Faulty feedback causes headaches.

 

Hearing unbridled opinions about your performance can make your head swell with pride or explode with anger. The popular TV reality show American Idolapplauds judgemental comments and hard hitting evaluations of contestants singing for stardom. The golden rule of “praise in public and critique in private” has been lost to the television Gods and, unfortunately, millions of viewers are learning by bad examples how to give proper feedback.

Negative Feedback

 Melodramic and sarcastic comments may play well on the boob tube and for studio audiences, but making personal attacks leads to tears and potential stalkers. Using nasty words only encourages a “potty mouth” response, which in turn promotes a verbal or physical confrontation. Then everyone will need some Tylenol.

Conversational conflicts hurt feelings and relationships – even when said with the best of intentions.

Constructive Feedback

Candid critiques are very important and can have a positive long term effect when presented with genuine praise.

1. Share something you liked about their performance and mean it.

2. Critique a specific behavoir and breifly tell how it affected you.

3. Suggest a solution describing the outcome you envision by this new action.

Keep criticism concise and treat the person with dignity. Additional discussions seeking clarification “Help me understand; your goal was…” and confirm understanding “So, what you’re saying is…” will successfully complete the feedback circuit.

Giving effective evaluations can be as tricky as removing the childproof cap on an aspirin bottle. But with a little practice and perspective, your critiques will keep them coming back for more.

 

[Author’s note: Telling this story has worked well with all ages and was an adaptation of a Maryland folktale. Happy Halloween!]

 

Old Mrs. Piedmont lived in a log cabin in the tiny town of Frazier Park, California, in the early 1800s. She would forage for food every day hoping to capture a rabbit or other small game but often had to dig up some roots and cook them for dinner. One day while picking mushrooms from the base of her favorite tree, she spotted something strange sticking out of the ground. She brushed away the topsoil until she uncovered a great big hairy toe. There was some good meat on that toe and it would make a mighty tasty dinner. With a single whack of her hatchet old Mrs. Piedmont dislodged the toe, put it in her basket and took it home.

When she got back to her cabin, she boiled her vittles in a kettle and had hairy toe soup for dinner. The meat was so tender she ate it right off the bone. It was the best meal she'd had in weeks! With a full stomach old Mrs. Piedmont fell fast asleep at the kitchen table next to her napkin and the toenail clipping.

The moon rose, crossed the night sky and seemed to stop directly over her house. Cold wind started blowing and growing stronger until it howled through the tree tops. A soft hollow voice was carried through the air calling out, "Hairy toe! Hairy toe! I want my hairy toe!" Inside the house, old Mrs. Piedmont stirred and nervously looked around.

From the woods came a stomp-squish, stomp-squish, stomp-squish noise and the wind whistled louder. At the edge of the forest, she could make out a ghoulish cry: "Hairy toe! Hairy toe! I want my hairy toe!" Old Mrs. Piedmont shuddered and ran to the door and barred it.

Stomp-squish, stomp-squish, stomp-squish sounds came from the garden path outside her cabin. Mournful moans shook her window shutters: "Hairy toe! Hairy toe! I want my hairy toe!"

The front door burst open with a bang, snapping the bar in two and a massive figure walked through the shattered doorway – stomp-squish, stomp-squish, stomp-squish. It demanded: "Hairy toe! Hairy toe! I want my hairy toe!" and pointed to the missing digit.

Old Mrs. Piedmont shouted in terror, "But I ATE your hairy toe!"

“And I want it back.” The giant advanced into the room stomp-squish, stomp-squish, stomp-squish.

Old Mrs. Piedmont was never seen again.

And still to this day, more than 200 years later, people still ask, “What does hairy toe soup taste like?” It ain’t toe bad – tastes like chicken.

 

Four key elements of storytelling

“What happened next?” will be your three favorite words. Paint a vivid picture and your audience will “see” what you’re saying. They’ll inch forward on their seats, listen with their eyes and ears giving you their full attention – all because you know the secret of how to tell a good story. Some of the best and often funniest stories are best told as anecdotes just before the wedding toast. These vignettes follow a simple formula: PLOT (Purpose, Listeners, Organized, andTime).

Purpose
Each anecdote should deliver a message, demonstrate a point, convey a feeling or an overall purpose – like in Aesop’s Fables and sum up the point in one succinct sentence. For example, Bob is head over heels in love with Betty (cliché, but let’s go with it). Now tell a story of how Bob showed his deep passion for his bride-to-be. At the end of your anecdote the meaning should be obvious and the listeners will easily grasp or identify the concept. So, determine your purpose and the plot will thicken.

Listeners
For people to remember what you’ve said, you must reach listeners on an emotional level. Breathe life into your story’s characters and situations by describing specific parts of a scene, on action taking place or through expressive dialogue. Instead of saying, “Bob was in the kitchen,” which is flat and boring, elaborate: “Bob was wearing his new ‘Kiss the Cook’ apron and every inch of the kitchen counter was covered with all the contents of the refrigerator.” Add more flavor with dramatic voicing, pauses, expressive body language and facial expressions to help the audience connect with you and visualize the setting.

Organization
When a storyteller jumps around to seemingly random thoughts it only confuses the listeners. Tell your anecdote in a logical sequence. Make it clear, focused and easy so your audience can follow the storyline. Avoid endless details and unnecessary tangents. Have something happen in the story at a specific time and place affecting the main character. This creates a problem which needs to be resolved, followed by a series of events (the action) that reaches a climax then concludes. At the end of your account the story should connect to the overall purpose.

Timing
Brevity is paramount for anecdotes. A short creative story will quickly clarify and support your point. A beautiful byproduct of a two-minute tale is the ease of use: easy for you to remember the story and easy for your audience to remember it.

Assemble all the parts of your PLOT and you’ll have a successful and brief anecdote. For example:

“I knew Bob was on the road to marriage when he made dinner for Betty. Only true love can make a man who lives on frozen dinners and Domino’s pizza reach beyond his current skill set and boil water for something more than JELL-O. One night I walked into his bachelor’s apartment, which was decorated in jet black furniture, to find him standing in the kitchen wearing his newly purchased Kiss the Cook apron. Every inch of the counter was covered with all the contents of the refrigerator. There was a little flour in the air…and in his hair. When Bob saw me, he said, “I’m making food to eat. For me and Betty. Supper.” The only things missing were his club and cave. But alas, isn’t that what true love is all about?”

In less than 150 words, a complete story can be told. Images of each scene are painted in your listeners’ minds, logically linking from one thought to another seasoned with a little humor. A good anecdote will almost tell itself.

 

Tasteful Toasts Yoga Cat

Did you know your friendly feline’s vibrational purr and breathing pattern can improve your speaking skills? Really. Scientists have determined a cat's purr measures between 20 and 50 hertz, which can ease your stomach pain, promote bone growth, boost immune systems, and reduce stress. Cat owners will agree a content cat in the lap generates a warm purring sensation that induces relaxation. Humans can mimic similar purring sounds through simple vocal exercises to produce a stronger, more resonant voice.

The first step in building a more powerful and captivating voice involves Zen Cat’s language rule number one: The better you breathe, the better you speak. To begin, my young kittens, you must understand how a word is heard. Air is inhaled into the lungs, pushed up from the diaphragm through the throat, and out the nose and mouth. Add a vibration (purr) to the air flow and a sound is produced – the speaking voice. The Tao of Meow focuses on the three resonating chambers: throat, nose, and mouth.

Throat
Start by saying one syllable words with ONG, like song, tong, bong, or pong. Use your fingertips to feel either side of your throat, just below the jaw line. The vibrations you feel can project your voice across a long horizontal distance, propelling it to the back of a large room.

Nose
Hold your nose with minimal pressure and hum AWN words (pawn, lawn, fawn). This nasal frequency assists with vertical distance when you want to SHOUT to the rafters.

Mouth
Close your mouth and lightly press your finger to your lips as in the international sign for quiet. Now hum UM words (hum, sum, rum) and feel your lips buzz with electricity. Your oral resonance chamber is where pronunciation and clarity of words form.

Practice humming or saying ONG, AWN, and UM words six times until you can pronounce each sound with maximum effect. Each sound can be used separately to create a desired effect, but blend all three frequencies together, and you will produce a powerful voice that can go the distance.

These techniques are also known to reduce tension in your neck, shoulders, and chest, which can unleash your natural voice. When you control your breath, you take control of your speaking voice. You’ll improve your ability to roar upon command and make your audience purr.

 

“Buddy, I’ve got a good deal for you,” says Fast Eddy. Known for his motor mouth, Eddy tosses around quick quips and comments like a seasoned auctioneer. He bombards you with useless information about the newest used car on his lot that is “perfect-for-you.” But as he comes in for the closer, Eddy slows his speech to a crawl and says the magic words, “good deal,” the key phrase that repeats in your head as you happily sign your name to the worst lease agreement of the century.

While many folks feel bamboozled by the Fast Eddys of the world, we all can learn from such shysters and use those same secret speaking skills for goodness instead of evilness. The technique I refer to is called Tortoise Talk.


Professional presenters all know to engage the audience, vary voice volume, and most importantly when making a point slow their speech and then stop. Reducing your speaking speed and pausing for a couple of beats gives your audience the precious time needed to digest your comments.

Telling a joke will demonstrate the point: “What do you get when you cross an agnostic, insomniac, and a dyslexic?” Stop and allow listeners to visualize your question during the silence. After a couple of seconds provide the punch line: “Someone who stays up all night wondering if there is a Dog.” Wait two beats, this time for the laughter.

I like to employ the Tortoise Talk technique when I give a toast. I speak animatedly through my introduction then pause. I look left-right-left like I’m about to cross the street. Then continue with a slow and deliberate delivery enunciating clearly so everyone can hear my tasteful toast.

Birthday toasts present a unique challenge because the atmosphere is charged with extra energy, people chattering, and joking. But once you capture the honoree and guests’ attention, leisurely say the following toast:

Tenderly we joke and tease
Candles blown out with a wheeze
Sharing in your birthday feast
We wish you 50 more - at least!


You don’t have to permanently park your internal Fast Eddy. Instead, be alert for those times when you should move to the slow lane. This tempo change will allow you to deliver a speech or toast with maximum impact.

 

“Come a little closer and I’ll tell you a magician’s secret to capturing the eyes and ears of an audience,” I said to my young apprentice. He leaned forward and in a low conspiratorial tone I said, “Whisper loudly.”

He looked at me like I had lost my mind.

I tried again, this time sounding like Yoda from Star Wars: “Those who cannot hear an angry shout may strain to hear a whisper.” He nodded his head like an old sage in a youthful body, but I could see he was more focused on remembering which movie the line originated from. I didn’t have the heart to tell him the wise words came from another pointy-eared sci fi icon named Spock of the famed Star Trek television series.

It’s human nature to want the inside scoop and keep ahead of the competition. Say you’ll reveal a secret and people will listen. Determine the size of your crowd and modulate your voice for the greatest impact. Here’s how:

12 or less listeners 
Speak quietly to this intimate group with low conversational tones and you’ll put them on the edge of their seats. Add a little body language by leaning toward the group’s inner circle then begin speaking to the folks in your personal cone of silence.

24 people packed in a room
This size crowd puts you in presentation mode. Raise your vocal volume a few notches and whisper loudly. Take a deep breath and speak like you’re spreading some gossip you want to be overheard.

48 or more seats fillers 
You are the star of the show for this audience and performance level material is needed from your voice to project “soft” shouts to the proverbial back row. Fill your lungs with air and talk from the back of your throat. This technique is similar to a whisper but with a stronger push from your diaphragm – practice may be required. Large seated engagements frequently supply a microphone, so speak into the mike and follow the suggestions for 12 or less listeners.

Vocal variety is necessary in every speech. Adding a little verbal cloak-and-dagger by shouting secrets softly helps engage your audience. Adjust your voice according to the size of the group and you’ll have listeners leaning in your direction.

 

Tasteful Toasts Bunny

“This guy who’s coming to the podium – you gotta keep your eye on him. He’ll make your wallet disappear. Please welcome Michael Varma.” Yes, a true Hall of Shame introduction I received years ago. It was horrendous on so many levels. It made me sound like a pick-pocket, but it gets worse. I was speaking before local businessmen asking for donations to fund Friends of the Garden – a nonprofit project for elementary school children to learn how to grow a vegetable garden.

My introducer neglected to explain I was a professional magician and that he was excited to meet me. He told me a story backstage of how another magician, about 10 years ago, magically stole his wallet as part of a comedy routine. His incomplete reminiscence at the lectern effectively killed my credibility. I had to take valuable time away from my original purpose to clarify his comments, then suitably re-introduce myself.

PROPER INTRO
A more fitting introduction for this month’s blog topic would be, “Ladies and gentlemen, our next guest is a professional entertainer and keynote speaker who over the last 25 years has performed and witnessed introductions ranging from spectacular to shocking. He will tell us how to avoid the Hall of Shame and provide an exclusive look into the secrets of giving an inspiring and dynamic introduction. Please welcome to the stage . . .”

Interested to know the speaker’s name? Curious about what secrets will be revealed? Then my 30-second intro did a good job. It was successful because it contained the three Cs of a quality introduction: content, context, and credibility.

1. CONTENT
A brief succinct sentence describing what you plan to talk about establishes a connection with the audience. Include an interesting and attention grabbing fact to pique your audience’s interest for the next C: context.

2. CONTEXT
Explaining why the topic is timely or important to the listeners will help solidify the bond between the speaker and listeners. This persuasive sentence grants the presenter full access to engage each participant, putting you exactly where you want to be.

3. CREDIBILITY
People want to learn from experts. A medical student wants to learn from an experienced successful doctor, not the Maytag repairman. A concise sentence stating your credentials is sufficient.

Occasionally I’m asked, “But what if the speaker has several degrees and awards?” Best recommendation: pick only two or three. Select the pertinent accolades for the subject matter and match it to the audience because in most cases less is more.

Limiting each component (content, context, and credibility) to one sentence provides the perfect length intro of 30 to 60 seconds.

FORMAT
For basic introductions, keeping the Cs in order (1-2-3) creates a crescendo before announcing the performer’s name, which is the natural cue to step up to the microphone. Ultimately, the type of event and the emcee’s level of experience will dictate the order of the three Cs.

I like the 3-2-1 format for wedding and anniversary parties. You may ask, “If it’s, like, so obvious you’re at a wedding reception, is it still necessary to cover the content, context and credibility?”

Yes, for several reasons. It notifies the audience and speaker what’s next on the agenda, provides a natural segue, and best of all, it takes less than ten seconds to say one sentence. For example: “The best man, Stephen Varma, the groom’s brother, will say a few words and lead the guests in a toast to the newlyweds.” Non-family members and their guests will know the who, what, where, when, and why – Matt Lauer would be so proud.

REALITY CHECK
Books on party protocol preach that the master of ceremonies will contact the performer and find out the following information: the speaker’s name and correct pronunciation (spelled phonetically if necessary), the speaker’s title (CEO, CFO, President, etc), the speaker’s bona fides (Mr., Ms., Dr., PhD, etc.) and the title of the speech.

In truth, I’ve rarely received any such call. Waiting for the phone to ring can lead to disaster. I submit into evidence another one of my Hall of Shame introductions.

“H-e-e-r-e’s Michael!” While I appreciate being raised to the legendary ranks of Letterman, Leno, Carson and other one-name icons, it was an inappropriate introduction for a group of elementary school children waiting to learn about earthquake safety. If kids know these late night talk show hosts then we have an explanation for the country’s dismal test scores.

ESSENTIALS
Most professional presenters, myself included, know the power of a proper introduction. A careless, haphazard, off-the-cuff intro can destroy the immediate connection needed to engage your audience. So, instead of waiting for a nonexistent phone call from the person who might introduce me, I actively do the following:

  • Create a well-crafted introduction printed in a large 24 point font (for easy reading)
  • E-mail or fax copies in advance to the contact person
  • Arrive early and locate the person making the introductions
  • Provide another copy of the intro and have it read out loud until we’re both satisfied

If you follow the three Cs of a quality introduction – content, context, and credibility – and learn from my experience, you’ll avoid the Hall of Shame and guarantee yourself a warm welcome from your audience.

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