Tag Archives: public speaking tips and tricks

Invest in this Superpower, Empathy, for Big Payoff

Last month, I spent some time with a client and her fiancé, who is very big in the world of the mind and mental improvement. Upon being introduced, he posed the following question: “What’s your superpower?”  Without missing a beat, I said, “Empathy.”

Normally, I get tongue-tied with questions like this. Maybe it’s because of the framing, but this felt very clear.

I started thinking about why empathy could be considered a superpower or, in my own mind, a strength, and began to flesh it out. What I realized is that without this ability, we are too often left in the dust when pursuing our interests and building our businesses and careers.

For a long time, I thought of empathy as a quality whereby someone was able to put him or herself into another’s shoes and imagine what they might be feeling. Usually applied in cases of painful feelings, the empathizer would subsequently offer a solution that could work. The problem was the solution was something that would work for the offerer, NOT the “offeree.”

Soon, I realized the trick with empathy was not offering a solution that would work for you, but what might work for the person in need of your support. This is a lot more difficult to accomplish because it takes a lot more thought and a significantly bigger investment of time and emotion. Done right, however, the payoff can be enormous.

Here’s why:

When you offer a solution that doesn’t fit the person who needs to embrace it, the problem doesn’t get fixed. It festers and worse, it gets repeated, which ultimately takes up more time and energy than if it had been done correctly in the first place. If time is money, then making it work the first time by investing more completely, there is big upside potential:

1. Work gets done.

2. People are more cheerful. thus able to pay it forward and help others.

3. Not as much complaining and whining, and related negativity.

There are three things to keep in mind when deploying your empathy:

1. Some people (like me) are actually less empathetic when facing people with problems they’ve dealt with. This seems counterintuitive, but it goes right back to being about them, not you. So watch that.

2. There are people who’ll take advantage. Being empathetic doesn’t mean being a doormat. Watch that, too.

3. Empathy should not be reserved for difficult or painful things. It should be equally deployed for joyful things, too.

I would love to know your empathy stories.

How to Use A Speaker Introduction

I’ve been doing a tremendous amount of speaking lately. It’s been a big part of my marketing plan this year and, as you may know, I love it for a lot of reasons.

Each time I am asked to speak, I provide a written speaker introduction. And each time the designated introducer receives it, without fail, they say something like, “I’m not going to read it – I’m just going to say a few words.” Translation: “I want to do it my way.”

Umm. no. It’s not about you.

Truthfully, I used to acquiesce because I don’t like making waves and it always seems to occur right before I’m about to step onto the stage. This is because, more often than not, the introducer hasn’t given little if any thought to this until just before.

So I thought it would be helpful to explain why it’s important  and how to use the speaker introduction that he or she provides, and yes, even if it sucks.

As a speaker, I manage my brand quite carefully. I’ve worked long and hard to get where I am. My bio on my website is much too long for someone to read aloud and in any event, it’s written for the eye vs. the ear. Furthermore, no one knows my accomplishments better than I do, nor can they pick and choose the ones most likely to establish credibility with a specific audience. A well-written speaker introduction sets this all up by preparing the audience for what’s to come, confirming expectations, and reassuring them their time will be well-spent.

Unfortunately, not everyone can write a good speaker introduction, so what do you do if the speaker provides an intro that is so poorly executed you might even be embarrassed to read it?

First, don’t wait until the last minute to either ask for it or review it. Just like you have to say your presentation out loud, you have to read the speaker introduction out loud to feel and hear how it exits your mouth. Any awkward wording or incorrect grammar can be changed without the speaker’s permission. If it truly sucks, you should alert the speaker and ask them to revise and resend. If it still sucks, you’re stuck and that’s on them. They will learn, trust me.

Second, read it with enthusiasm. Do not use the corporate monotone or other affects that lack variety. As the introducer, it’s your job to talk up the speaker and get your audience excited to hear him or her.

Finally, if you know the person personally, it’s ok to first say a few things about your personal relationship and then segue into the official speaker introduction by saying something like, “And now, I’m going to give you Ruth’s official introduction.”

It took me some time to create a speaker introduction that hit all the marks, was easy to read, easy to listen to, and that I could use for years (with frequent tweaks), so let me share the qualities a good one should have:

  • 100 words or less
  • Highlights of speaker’s career, especially the ones that apply to a given audience (no law says you cannot have different intros for different audiences)
  • Something fun or funny
  • 14-16 point Arial font, double-spaced for easy reading

If you would like to see my current speaker introduction, email us.

Elon Musk Isn’t Polished, But He’s Funny

I have been aware of Elon Musk for the past couple of years. I see Teslas around town and I must admit, I want one. (A car aficionado friend told me the only person who doesn’t want a Tesla hasn’t driven a Tesla. I have not driven a Tesla, but I would like to.) I think they’re beautiful.

Anyway, back to Elon. I decided to watch some YouTube videos of him speaking and he’s far from polished. He seems not to know what he’s going to say next, he stumbles a lot, uses a lot of non-words and fillers. In short, he seems unprepared. So how does he get away with it? A number of things, but mostly he is funny.

The kind of humor he likes to use is self-directed, also known as self-effacing humor. When he’s poking fun at himself, he’s likable. he connects, you feel like he’s just like you. So not only does the guy make a beautiful, aspirational, market-changing vehicle, he seems not take himself too seriously. And that makes his generally weak delivery easier to bear — even somewhat enjoyable.

There are other things he does, too… he’s confident, calm, answers questions respectfully, and he is mostly polite.

So what does this mean for you — and me, by the way? Can you rely on your well-developed sense of humor to get you through a speech? No. You see you’re no Elon Musk. Neither am I. We haven’t created an object of great desire. We haven’t done all the hard work of getting these disruptive products to market. We don’t own a company called SpaceX. He’s a superstar. And when you’re already a superstar, you can get away with being a not-so-great speaker.

The rest of us… we have to be funny AND do the other work. But maybe if we do, we can buy a Tesla.