Q & A: With a Cherry On Top

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to add impact to the closing of your speech. Reading time: 3:27.

       The most competitive runners know their overall performance depends as much on their cool down as their workout.

        ice sundae cherry   So too, the most effective public speakers know their question and answer session –their Q&A preparation– is just as integral as their speech to the overall impact of their message.

          One enhances the other. One primes the other. One complements the other. And most significantly one creates the other.

           Unfortunately, too many wanna-be leaders confine most of their preparation to their main speech and little or none to their Q&A. And the results are predictably devastating.

           You know drill. We’ve all been there. You ask for questions. No takers. The silence is deafening. The energy in the room collapses. Your message falls flat. And your audience scurries for the exits.

  Sparking a Catalyst

           But it doesn’t have to be that way.

           In fact, the most effective leaders can and do conduct more proficient Q&A sessions when they think of their speech as a catalyst, a catalyst that stirs a reaction in the audience — a catalyst that steers the Q&A into acting as a stabilizing solution.

           As a catalyst, your speech sparks more engagement in the audience to understand your message. And they dissect it in the Q&A portion of your presentation.

          As a catalyst, your speech ignites more interaction in the audience to study and act on your message. And they more fully understand it in the Q&A portion of your presentation.

          As a catalyst, your speech prompts more probing questions in the audience to amplify and clarify your message. And they own it more completely in the Q&A portion of your presentation.

  Continue reading “Q & A: With a Cherry On Top”


Speech Breathes Life Into A Leader

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to help you foster more commitment to sharpening your public speaking skills. Reading time: 5:08

    You are tasked to lead 12 entry level employees
in a leadership development workshop on public speaking.
More than half of the class fears
public speaking and the other half
would rather be anywhere else.  What do you do?
Consider the following speech that one leader delivered to
reframe public speaking as a skill that breathes
life into you rather than scares you half to death. 

           Life1If I were not an adult or even a child, I probably wouldn’t be standing and I certainly wouldn’t be speaking. I’d be on my hands and knees,  screaming  not speaking because I was a baby.

         And I would be an infant in more ways than one since the word “Infant” comes from the Latin word meaning “unable to speak.”

          But I am not an infant. I am able to speak. I am able to break through the sound barrier and soar higher and higher on the wings of speech. Growing from a baby, growing into a child, growing up to become a man.

        Yes. Speech breathes life.

        In the next few minutes I am going to share with you three specific examples of how speech breathes life –BREATHING life into a 6-year-old infant, BREATHING life into ordinary people who become extraordinary and memorable, and BREATHING life into depressed nation on the verge of world war. Continue reading “Speech Breathes Life Into A Leader”

Sharing a Bottle of Wine from the Podium

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to deliver the text of a speech more personally . Reading time: 1:48.

          You have a major speech to deliver. Your script is ready. But you’re not.

         wineYou hardly have time to read over your speech let alone rehearse it. And the last time you had to resort to reading your speech the old-fashioned way your monotone put half of the audience to sleep.

        To make matters worse, you know only too well that staring at TelePrompTer makes you look as robotic as you sound.

        But wait. There’s a better way to make sure your script isn’t showing.

        Hike up your script. Shorten it. Tighten it. Gather it. Beware of letting your script slip out beyond your control.

      Think of your speech not as words on paper but as so many thoughts bottled up within you over a long time, so many thoughts fermenting in the juices of your life’s experiences.

        Then share your bottle of thoughts from the podium with your audience.  Pour your thoughts out so poignantly and personally to your audience.  Embrace your script as you would a bottle of fine wine.  And read the text of your speech the way you would read a wine label:

       AT A GLANCE.

       Continue reading “Sharing a Bottle of Wine from the Podium”

7 Ways To Corral Your Public Speaking Nerves

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to care for your voice. Reading time: 2:34.

         Here are 7  ideas you can use to  corral your nerves—all six miles of them  rumbling, quaking and quivering throughout your body– whenever you have to step up to a podium and deliver a speech.


    COOKIES    1.  Eat two cookies and sip some hot water just before you take command of the podium. Think of it as your game day meal – fuel for your body to gear up for a strong performance. The cookies are for energy and the hot water is to soothe your vocal cords. That’s what the Greater Communicator did.

         As a former actor, President Ronald Reagan knew the importance of coating your vocal cords with hot water and eating cookies to enhance the vitality and energy in his voice. Reagan said he got those speaking tips on the care and feeding of the voice from two celebrities who built their fame on their voices, Frank Sinatra and Reverend Billy Graham.


     2. Sometimes no matter how much water you drink, you still end up with cotton mouth. Your mouth is so dry you feel like it is filled with cotton balls. It even has a medical term (xerostomia). Now what do you do? Bite your tongue. Try it now. Pull the tip of your tongue to the back of your mouth and bite down hard. You will generate enough saliva to combat cotton mouth.


    3. Breathe deeply from the deep in the pit of your stomach. Practice diaphragm breathing (belly breathing). Put your hand on your stomach. Your stomach should expand as you breathe in. Then exhale like the basketball player who steps up to the foul line. Exhaling gets rid of the toxins in the body, toxins that tear down your muscles and make you tired.


   4.  yawn gets six months in prisonA yawn is the deepest form of deep breathing. So yawn as discretely as you can before your speech. Your yawning can alter your biochemistry. According to research at Yale University, so another yawn may ironically give you just the right energy boost to deliver your speech.


   5. Think of your voice as a musical instrument and practicing the musical scale (Do Re MI FA So La Ti Do) over and over again on the day of your speech. Ten minutes of singing in the shower will enhance the richness of your tone. Work the lower end of the scale over and over for the first five minutes then gradually move up the scale. Don’t sing too loud and don’t whisper. Both extremes are bad for your voice.


   6. Step onto the proverbial dance floor. Get out from behind the lectern or come down off the podium for a minute or so. Your mini dance will capture the attention of your audience and give you a better chance to literally shake off the shakes.


   7.  Some professional speakers literally run up to the podium when introduced. If the only thing you like to run is the refrigerator, try a brisk walk up to the front of the room instead. The effect is the same.

Today’s ImproveMINT

Care for your vocal nerves to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

SUBSCRIBE: Have a Leadership Mint delivered to your E-mail every business day. It’s free. Just click the SIGN ME UP box in the upper left column.

Pacing Yourself on the Podium

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to take more command over your public speaking skills. Reading time: 5:34

          Speak very s-l-o-w-l-y and people will listen more attentively to you, observes actor Kirk Douglas who suffered a stroke in his 80s that forced his slower paced speech.

Kirk Douglas starred in the movie Spartacus
Kirk Douglas starred in the 1960 movie Spartacus

          The most effective leaders know that pacing intensifies listening in much the same way classical music paces progressively to a crescendo. Martin Luther King Jr. brilliantly paced his “I Have a Dream” speech. He started at 90 words a minute (well below conversational pace of 140 words a minute). Then he concluded at a passionate 150 words per minute.

        Radio commentator Walter Winchell commanded attention with his staccato paced news delivery, gushing at twice the normal rate of speech —more than 237 words a minute—often without a breath for 20 seconds.

       The staccato voice of a passionate speaker can then be heard even faster, almost as fast as the violinist who plays 2,528 consecutive sixteenth notes for 158 measures in Ravel’s Sonata for violin.

       Whew! Meanwhile radio commentator Paul Harvey was famous for his ever-changing syncopated delivery peppered with pregnant pauses and abrupt topic changes that attracted millions of listeners for more than 50 years on ABC Radio.

     Silence Can Be Deafening

      Paul Harvey leveraged the power of the pregnant pause: “GOOD…..DAY.” The silent interval can be deafening.

      The pause heightens interest in the words to follow. With the pregnant pause, you can surprise your audience much like the long pause in composer Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 94. In the 16th measure of the second movement, there is only one sound, a single loud chord that SURPRISES the audience and gives it its namesake, The Surprise Symphony.

         Pull a Haydn. Surprise your audience. With the pacing of your voice. From staccato. To silence. To surprise.  That’s what the most effective leaders do from the podium.

           Let’s study the deliberate pacing of three famous speakers: Martin Luther King Jr., President John Kennedy and President Barack Obama. Continue reading “Pacing Yourself on the Podium”