Friday’s Jokes and Quotes – March Madness

“The secret is to have eight great players and four others who will cheer like crazy.”
~ Jerry Tarkanian

“We can’t win at home and we can’t win on the road. My problem as general manager is I can’t think of another place to play.”
~ Pat Williams

“Basketball is like war in that offensive weapons are developed first, and it always takes a while for the defense to catch up.”
~ Red Auerbach

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.”
~ Tim Duncan

“The idea is not to block every shot. The idea is to make your opponent believe that you might block every shot.”
~ Bill Russell

“When I went to Catholic high school in Philadelphia, we just had one coach for football and basketball. He took all of us who turned out and had us run through a forest. The ones who ran into the trees were on the football team.”
~ George Raveling

“Sometimes a player’s greatest challenge is coming to grips with his role on the team”
~ Scottie Pippen

A Place To Be Bad

Do you want to be a good speaker? Find a place to be bad. The best advice the old-time comedians gave me when I started doing standup comedy was “you need a place to be bad.” What they referring to when they said, “a place to be bad” was a safe environment to get “stage time.” George Burns and Gracie Allen, when booked in the Palace in New York, would take two weeks in the Catskills just to work on one or two routines, sometimes one or two jokes before they opened at the Palace. The only way to get comfortable speaking or comfortable with your material is to perform it in front of an audience. I can’t tell you how many times those old comedians would tell me, you have to tell a joke a hundred times before you make it yours. I think what they meant by saying tell the joke a hundred times before you made it yours, is that there are so many ways to tell the joke with vocal variety, pauses, inflections and so many different audiences that with each opportunity to tell the joke in front of the audience you learn different ways to tell the joke so that you know it will get the laugh every time.

In order to present effectively you must learn to be comfortable in front of the audience. You have to be able to control your nerves. The only real way to control your nervousness is to constantly get up in front of the audience you need to get that “stage time.”

If you are doing stand-up comedy the place to be bad is “Open Mike” nite, in speaking a place to be bad is “Toastmaster’s International.”  to improve is comes down to practise, practise, practise.

I recommend practicing in front of a mirror but that is only to get you to learn your material so well you don’t have to think about what you are saying on the podium but how you are saying it. To really know if your material and delivery are good you need that audience interaction.

A place to be bad is a place to be good so that when you speak in front of that important audience where you need to make a good impression, you will be ready to give your best presentation because you put in the effort with your “stage time.”

Speaking Tip – Good Posture

When I was younger my parents were always nagging me to stand up straight. they wanted me to develop good habits and posture was one of them.

It is important to have good posture when you are speaking in front of an audience. When speaking you should stand up straight, shoulders back, chest out, stomach in, with your arms to your sides (unless gesturing). Good posture shows self-confidence. You will look better and more professional when you are speaking. Good posture provides a psychological effect on your message to the audience.  When your shoulders are hunched over you appear less confident and sloppy or frumpy which the audience can look upon as unprofessional.

Don’t lean-to one side or sway back and forth this also can detract for you message.

When keeping your hands to your side resist the temptation of putting your hands in your pockets. Hands in pockets will look like you have bad posture and if you happen to have something in your pockets such as keys or change quite often without even realizing it your nervousness might show by playing with the keys or change making distracting noises. I have seen many speakers make this mistake. I suggest taking everything out of your pockets before you speak so that even if you put your hands in your pockets you wont shuffle anything.

It is important to note that good posture doesn’t mean you should stand so straight and still that you look stiff on the podium. Standing so rigid while speaking can also have a negative affect on the audience. The audience will interpret that as stage fright. when the audience perceives you as nervous they interpret part of that as you not having faith in your subject. Working on your posture while you are in front of an audience is not a good idea. constantly practice good posture so that when you are in front of an audience it will appear natural and you will make your parents proud.

Silly Team Building Games

If people did not sometimes do silly things, nothing   intelligent would ever get done”
                                                                       Ludwig Wittgenstein

I recently attended several meetings with a company planning their charitable events for the year. Every year the company puts together a team from both of their locations to plan their employee events. Each location assigns a co-chair and an equal amount of employees from both locations. Many members of the team volunteer to be on the committee while some departments assign someone. The committee is formed for two reasons: 1) the organization is very philanthropic and  gives back to the community in which they do business, and 2) the events that they have not only bring the employees on the team together as a team but it’s also good for the morale of the entire company.

The first thing the team does is pick a theme; quite often they pick a theme from the latest block buster movie. The members of the team decorate the area in conjunction with their theme and then they all dress up in costumes.

This year one of the co-chairs felt that a theme where everyone dressed up in crazy outfits wasn’t appropriate in these tough economic times and that a more serious tone should be taken. That person thought that having fun while others are struggling was inappropriate. Even though most wanted to keep the tradition of a fun theme that co-chair persuaded a few of the employees from her location to agree with her. The co-chair that wanted to keep the fun theme was struggling to get the minority to agree on a theme so she would table that discussion in order for the meetings to progress with the other aspects of the agenda. Until they could agree on a theme the team wasn’t coming together.

After two meetings the negative co-chair was still determined to tone it down and was not only bringing the meetings to a halt but was causing stress among the participants. I don’t think the economy was the major reason she wanted to tone it down. I think she was assigned the task of co-chair rather than having volunteered for the job and she wasn’t the type of person that would dress up in “silly” costumes anyway. When one participant doesn’t want to participate this can cause the team to stall. Some of the suggestions this person made in the name of a “bad economy” could have lasting negative effects for years to come. One of the suggestions was to take the budget given for the special events and just give it to charity. While that sounds like a good idea, the problem with that is the company already has a corporate gift amount that they give to charity. Quite often when you cut the budget for something in the name of “bad economy” when the economy turns around the company never puts that money for the special events back in the budget. Another problem with “toning it down” in a charity campaign with a successful company is that you are actually hurting the charity or charities that you are trying to help. Companies that tone it down don’t raise as much money while the company that does do a best practices campaign is quite often even more successful because people realize the need to help out more when times are tough.

At the third meeting the positive co-chair wanted to do something to get everyone to come together as a team so she opened with an ice-breaker exercise. I realize some people think ice-breaker exercises are silly, and yes they can be, but sometimes a little silliness is exactly what is needed to reduce the tension in a group and to break down barriers.  At first when she announced to the team that she had a little ice breaker game to start the meeting off with there were a few who kind of rolled their eyes including the negative co-chair. But she persisted and had everyone stand-up in the center of the room. She then handed out a sheet of questions that everyone was supposed to go around and get answers for from the others in the room. At first some were slow in participating but before you knew it everyone was asking questions and getting to know each other. People started having a good time and laughing at some of the answers. Then she gathered everyone together to go over the ice-breaker questions and the more outlandish some of the answers were, the more the laughter was. When the exercise was finished she had everyone sit down and then they proceeded with the agenda of the meeting. “I think the next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humor in it.” Frank Howard Clark

The difference between the first two meetings and the third was amazing. Everyone started to get along in the meeting and everyone agreed on a theme for the events. The group as a whole chose a fifties theme where those that wanted to get all dressed up could, but those that didn’t want to get too crazy could wear a t-shirt (that they were going to design) with blue jeans. What happened? She made it fun. Dale Carnegie once said, “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” She made the meeting fun and they succeeded.

You could see that the silly icebreaker exercise was a success. Everyone had a great time at the event and they raised more money than they had the previous year before the economy went bad. Afterward the emails were sent out to everyone thanking them for a successful event and everyone was emailing each other saying how much fun it was and that they had such a good time.

After the first two meetings I had been worried that the positive co-chair would get discouraged and resign leaving the team to follow the negative co-chair in the wrong direction. The positive co-chair didn’t appear to be as forceful or verbal as the negative co-chair and my concern was that the negative co-chair was going to win just by holding her ground until the quieter softer person gave up. What this proves is that with a little humor and creativity you don’t have to push back to get your agenda passed. You just need to have a little silliness and know how to use it.

There are some things that the positive co-chair could improve upon in running a meeting. She could take a little more of a lead in the meetings to cut down on the side discussions, maybe implement “Roberts Rules of Order” to keep the meeting moving, and speak a little louder to get the groups attention. However those are easy things to improve upon. She could also join an organization such as Toastmaster to improve her communication and leadership skills or take some training for that because she already has the foundation to be a great leader. What she did in the third meeting is something that is hard to teach. She used fun and humor to get the group to come together. She could have taken a hard stance just as the other co-chair did and there would have never been a compromise or consensus.

The irony of this lesson is that a silly ice-breaker exercise turned those that didn’t want to participate in anything silly into participating in a very successful event. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously for fear of looking silly. When we do this we not only come across as unfriendly but we can ruin it for the rest of the group. So the next time you are faced with a situation where people are taking themselves too seriously, consider a silly ice-breaker to keep the team together.

“Take time every day to do something silly.” Philips Walker

The following questions are from the Ice breaker exercise that she used to get the team together.

Count the number of brown eyed people in the room.

Find out who has made the longest journey.

Find out who has the most siblings.

Who has the most unusual hobby?

Find the weirdest thing anyone has eaten.

Who knows what ‘Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia’ is a fear of?

Taking Control Of The Audience

Originally Posted June 11, 2012

A friend of mine called me the other day asking for some help with her contest speech. She is competing in Toastmasters “International Speech Contest.” An annual contest that is world wide starting in January and culminating at the World Championship in August.

She has made it to the District level which is all of Southern Nevada and all of Central California. If she wins District she will move on to the Region and then possibly the World Championship of Public Speaking in Washington D.C. Everyone from her home club has told her she has a great speech, but she needs “to learn to take control of the room before she starts her presentation like George does.”

I have competed many times in the past and others have observed that I get the audiences attention before I start to speak even before I am introduced. This is what entertainers call stage presence. Anyone can stand up in-front of an audience and tell jokes, give a speech, sing a song, but to be a professional entertainer, comedian, or speaker you have to have stage presence. This is what separates the amateurs from the professionals. Many call it the “it” factor. Do they have “it?” The question now is, is stage presence something that you can develop or are you born with it. Can Stage presence be taught? I believe yes and no.

I believe that you have to have “it” in you to begin with, but many need to be taught how to bring “it” out of them. When I first started I didn’t have stage presence, but I believe I had it in me. I was too nervous and inhibited, but I knew if I was going to make it in humor I would have to get over my nervousness and inhibitions.

The first step in developing stage presence is to get up in-front of an audience as often as possible. There is no substitution for stage time. You have to overcome stage freight. You have to overcome what comedians and entertainers refer to as “Flop Sweat.” This is that feeling you get when you are performing on stage and the audience is not responding to anything you are doing and you break out into a cold sweat. You may always be a little nervous on stage but you have to get it under control. The only way you can control nervousness on stage is by more “stage time.” If I go through a period of time where I haven’t been on stage as much as I am used to, I tend to feel more nervousness.

The second step is to know your material. If you are too busy trying to remember what you are trying to say you cannot possible have stage presence.  Knowing your material gives you the opportunity to concentrate on your delivery.

The third step is to dress just a little nicer than your audience. You want to be the focus of attention on stage. This goes back to dressing for success. If you are dressed too casually, the audience isn’t going to focus on you. I should say you don’t want to overdress either. Many entertainers wear a lot of flashy sequined outfits and that is ok for entertainers, but not for speakers. My friend Steve Pavlina who has a “personal development blog” also owned a computer game software company and when he would speak at computer conferences he said the audience wouldn’t listen to you if you were dressed in a suit and tie. There is was better to wear a t-shirt and jeans, but for the most part you should dress just a little nicer than the audience

After you get over stage freight and you know your material then you can really learn how to develop your personality so that you can take control of the room. When I competed I liked to sit near the back near the exit. I would get nervous before a contest and want to pace or go to the bathroom. I didn’t want the audience seeing me get up a lot. I didn’t want to appear to the audience and especially the judges that I was nervous before I got up to speak.

Just before it was my turn to compete I would go over to get miked up, I would smile stand-up straight and walk with confidence. This is where I would start to settle down. I knew the audience shouldn’t see me looking nervous so I had to get my nerves under control. Taking a couple of deep breaths and standing up straight can help with that.

When the master of ceremonies (toastmaster) would start to introduce me, I would take one last sip of water so as to not have dry mouth when I spoke. When I was introduced I would walk a little faster than my normal walk with a big smile and look like I couldn’t wait to get up and speak. I walked and spoke with purpose. I would almost jump on the stage. Shake the toastmasters hand and then stand in front of the audience smile and make eye contact. One of the toughest things for most speakers is to just stand in front of the audience without saying anything. I would just stand there and let the applause die down. Only after the applause died would I go into my introduction. Standing in-front of the audience with out speaking shows confidence. It lets the audience get to know you. You want to make a good first impression. You want the impression to be of having fun and that you are confident. In the wild an animal can smell fear. The audience can also detect fear in a speaker. This can hurt your presentation. The audience isn’t going to listen to you, respect you if you appear too nervous. When I was doing stand-up comedy I noticed that the most successful comedians didn’t always have the best material, but the had the best delivery. If the comedian was confident the audience usually laughed, but if the comedian was nervous the audience didn’t laugh and even occasionally the comedian would get heckled.

I recently tried to give this advice to another competitor in the same contest. And she said her speech was too serious that she didn’t want the audience to think she was having fun. She lost. You can still give a very serious speech and show the audience that you enjoy speaking. You don’t have to be a grinning idiot just let the audience know you enjoy what you do.

Choreography is important. You don’t want to pace too much or just stand in one position the whole time you want to move with meaning. The trick is to make it look natural. I see too many speakers that are too choreographed and they don’t look natural when speaking. Their movements are stiff and it appears that they are thinking “when I say this, I will move my arm this way.” When I was in theater class the teacher would say a good set design is one where the audience doesn’t notice it. The same applies to your choreography, if the audience notices your gestures it may detract from your presentation.

The overall goal of taking control of the room is to be confident enough to be yourself in front of the audience, so that they focus on you and what you have to say.

Conference Call is Still Public Speaking

Just because you aren’t in front of an audience while conducting a conference call or webinar that doesn’t mean you don’t need to practice good presentation skills. Yes the audience can’t see you but you are still trying to convey your message to an audience. It is more important to make sure you have prepared your message and your are ready to present it.

Write out your speech so that you have a script to refer to during the call. Because the audience can’t see you they are focusing on your oral communication. It is so important to make sure the script flows and you don’t have too many “ah’s.” and other audible pauses.

Make sure you have plenty of vocal variety, because you aren’t physically standing in front of them to make eye contact and you can’t read the audiences response to your presentation the only way you are going to keep the listener’s attention is to project energy and enthusiasm in your voice. You want to sound upbeat and an effective technique is to smile while you are speaking. Even though the audience can’t see you smile they can hear it in the inflection in your voice. Most importantly enunciate. The audience must understand each and every word.

I recommend practicing your speech two ways. 1st – as if you were giving it in front of a live audience. 2nd – practice with a microphone so that you are comfortable speaking into a microphone.

Professional Courtesy

When I was performing in comedy clubs whether it was “open mike nite” or being paid to perform there was a small light in the back of the room to let the performer know that his time was up. If a comedian kept speaking long after the light went on he was taking time out of the next comedians spot. This has happened to me not only performing comedy but while speaking. I was asked to give a presentation at a Toastmaster’s District conference one time and the keynote speaker went on for about 45 minutes more than his allotted time. They came to me and asked me to cut 30 minutes out of my 45 minute presentation. When I agreed to speak to the organization I told them I would do it but i needed no less than 45 minutes now I have to cut out two-thirds of my presentation because some one else wasn’t respectful of my time and the audiences time.

The other day I walked in to a meeting room with a group of people for a webinar, unfortunately  there was a meeting prior to the meeting I was in and it hadn’t adjourned yet. We had to ask them to leave and one of the participants that had to leave the room looked at me and said, that was rather rude. I apologized and said, we are only make you leave because we have a webinar that started five minutes ago and we aren’t even hooked up. The person that was rude was the ones in the meeting before us that weren’t respecting our time in the room. Their meeting could take place in other meeting rooms, but we had to meet in that room because it was the only room with the A/V technology that we needed to participate in the meeting.

Be respectful of others time when giving a presentation or conducting a meeting, after all you wouldn’t want to be the one that has to wait for someone else to finish before you can get started.