Make a Good Speech Great

When you think of famous speeches given by a woman — who comes to mind? Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg, Arianna Huffington and J.K. Rowling are just a few women who, in my opinion, have delivered great speeches. A great speech captures my attention when it contains elements of conversation, paired with confidence, poise and an organized line of thoughts.

How does one deliver a great speech? As coordinator of New York Women In Communication Twitter chats, I had the opportunity to connect with corporate communications writer Cynthia Hanson. She offered insight on “How To Make a Good Speech Great.” Cynthia is a speechwriter who has written speeches for executives in some of America’s leading companies and universities, as well as for individuals giving TED Talks.

When asked, what makes a good speech great, Cynthia’s first response; “Storytelling!” She insists to include “a clear beginning, middle, and end and a sense of urgency, expertise, and truth.” There is a difference between a good speech and a great speech. A good speech is “meh,” Cynthia says. “A great speech is memorable, life-changing and exhilarating.”

Cynthia shared the followings tips on how to deliver a great speech:

Good preparation: “Map out all the points that must be made. Circle the most important then flesh out the major points. Be very clear about the beginning, middle and end.”

Grab audience attention: “Invent a great title. Ask an uncomfortable question; seduce your audience with truth. Speak the truth and you will gain the audience’s attention. The first 10 seconds of a speech are critical and people can sense from the beginning whether a speech is worth their attention.”

Challenges of Giving a Speech: “Command attention from people addicted to digital devices.” It is best not so save the best points until the end. Season sentences with Today! Right now! At this moment! Punctuate with urgency and the audience will stick with you. Another challenge is delivering bad news. No one wants to hear it. Therefore, acknowledge it and personalize it by including statements such as: I am sad, or I am disappointed.”
How to Conclude a Speech: Conclude by conducting your own Q&A. “What did I learn from XYZ?” “This is what I learned!” Conclude with something provocative. “How did XYZ change my life?” “This is how it changed my life!” Think about good old-fashioned children’s stories. Beginning, middle and an ending, where we learn the moral of the story.”

Know your topic, and speak from a place of knowledge. “We are fine-tuned from our earliest days to pay attention to great stories,” Cynthia stresses. “Speechwriters are storytellers. Tell the story as the best ever told.

This post originally appeared on NYWICI Aloud blog.

10 Leadership Lessons From NBA Champions Cleveland Cavaliers

By now I’m sure you know, the Cleveland Cavaliers made history by defeating the Golden State Warriors in an epic game 7 on Sunday. Cleveland was down 3-1, however, by the end of game 6 the score was tied 3-3. In recent weeks, sports analysts, fans, and haters alike ruled Cleveland out. More specifically, LeBron James was ruled out! Critics spared no mercy in their critique of James’ ability to lead his team to victory. Well, after 52 years, LeBron James and his team did what seemed to be the impossible – they won game 7 and gave Cleveland its trophy. This is why I refer to the old cliche, teamwork makes the dreamwork.

I find business lessons in everything I see. And this historical victory is no exception. As the leader of his team, the CEO of his team, LeBron strategically worked with the coaching staff and his teammates to lead them to victory. When LeBron first returned to Cleveland in 2014, he contributed towards picking his team members, identifying their strengths, and helping them to realize their strengths. This process, however, did not come without challenges and criticism. In the midst of it all, LeBron James continued to declare himself to be the best player in the world and he proved just that by leading his team to victory.

The leadership lessons learned from Cleveland’s 2016 NBA victory are many. Below are my top ten.

  1. Set a goal. From day 1, LeBron’s goal was to bring a trophy to Cleveland. Once that goal was set, every move by LeBron was strategic; which moved him closer to achieving his goal.
  2. Build your team. In order to win, LeBron knew he needed to have a winning team. LeBron’s team may not be perfect (nobody is perfect), however, the team James put together had skills, and talent that once nurtured, would be the perfect fit.
  3. Invest in your team. It takes a great leader to see underdeveloped talents and nurture those talents in order to achieve a collective goal. LeBron challenged his team to not settle. After Golden State Warriors drastic defeat in game 7, reporters asked Steph Curry ‘what went wrong.’ Curry speaking to his own shortcomings in game 7 simply said, “I settled.”
  4. Believe in your team. Although the Cavaliers’ backs were against the wall, they didn’t give up. LeBron believed in his team, as did his coach. During those last 3 games of the series, fans and critics alike were publicly discouraging coach Tyronn Lue to sit Kevin Love. The fans lost faith – but LeBron and Lue did not. And as a result, Love had a key defensive play in game 7, a play that helped lead the Cavaliers to victory.
  5. Create a strategy. The Cavaliers knew they were up against a team that presumably would not give them an easy victory. The Cavaliers had a strategy in place. In creating a strategy, they had to know the strengths of their team. As a leader, you should know your team and be clear on what they bring to the table. Use this knowledge to create an effective strategy that will take you from point a to z.
  6. Be willing to adjust. After consecutive losses to the Warriors, it was obvious that the Cavaliers initial strategy wasn’t effective.  During post-game interviews, Lebron said on several occasions, “I have to watch the tape,” “I have to look at the play and make adjustments.” In studying their plays, he was able to see what worked and what failed. As a result, they adjusted their strategy. The team remained the same. However, they had to adjust their strategy in order to achieve their goal. Be willing to adjust. Review your strategy frequently and make sure that you’re still on course.
  7. Accept responsibility. LeBron and his teammates were willing to acknowledge defeat, take ownership and learn from their mistakes. It is not always an easy task to be on top of your game all the time. We will make mistakes. How we respond to those mistakes can make all the difference in the world. The Cavaliers were not in denial of their shortcomings, accepted responsibility and made the necessary adjustments.
  8. Believe. LeBron never stopped believing he could win. He kept telling his teammates, if we can just get one more win. LeBron and his team actually had three consecutive wins, leading to them to the championship. He believed in his team, and they believed in him.
  9. Empower your team. During the game breaks, we often saw LeBron encouraging his teammates. And at times, the encouragement didn’t always look nice. As a leader, there are times when those moments of empowerment will have to be stern, yet encouraging. LeBron’s bar of expectation is high, not only for himself, but his team as well. With each win, the ability to achieve their goal of winning the NBA Championship was becoming more realistic. In the midst of it all, leaders, we must empower our team.
  10. Celebrate your victory. LeBron celebrated his victory. In the moments immediately following the win, with tears streaming down his face, LeBron embraced Kevin Love, the team member who seemingly received the most public criticism. Love, who some consider to be the weakest link of that team – LeBron hugged him. This hug was captured in a photo that has gone viral. In my opinion, this image (below) speaks volumes. Don’t forget your team. When you’ve reached your goal, celebrate everyone involved. Each person on your team brings their own set of dynamics. Remember, it is the Teamwork That Makes The Dream Work.

    James and Love
    Photo Credit: Boston Globe

Storytelling as a Marketing Tool

With so many online voices, it is important that brands find imaginative ways to connect with their customers. Creative storytelling allows brands the opportunity to take consumers on a visual journey.

How is storytelling evolving in this age of technology? To answer this question, I invited Julie Livingston to share insight during New York Women In Communications May 31, 2016, Twitter chat. As President of Livingston, PR, Julie advises clients on how to effectively use storytelling as a PR strategy.

Storytelling as a marketing tool

  • Social media and content marketing provide perfect platform to tell stories as part of brand marketing.
  • Stories contribute to a brand’s persona, a powerful mechanism for connecting with consumers.
  • Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to breathe life into your brand.
  • Storytelling helps to differentiate your brand from the competition.
  • Consumers form a personal connection with your brand thru stories that are authentic, creative and inspirational.
  • New social media platforms are influencing brand storytelling such as snapchat.

Changes that Impact Storytelling

  • Because of social media, attention spans are shorter. Stories must be brief, yet compelling.
  • Audiences have become more fragmented, specialized. Stories that appeal to Millennials may not to Boomers.
  • The advent of mobile has also influenced brand storytelling. Must be brief and highly visual.
  • Real-time storytelling is on the rise. Snapchat is a great example of real-time storytelling.
  • The brand’s audience demographic will often dictate the kind of ‪#storytelling theme.

Examples of Great Brand Storytelling

  • @Progressive has done remarkably well through ‘Flo,’ a character created to tell its brand story.
  • @KennethCole used his fashion brand’s advertising to raise awareness of various social causes through powerful storytelling.
  • @TOMSshoes helped pioneer a type of disruptive storytelling.
  • @warbyparker has used storytelling to make consumers care about buying eyeglasses and helping others.

User-Generated Content

  • Brands are shifting gears from content creation to content curation and getting their fans to contribute.
  • User-generated content (UGC) can come in the form of Instagram photos, Facebook posts, Snapchat,Twitpics and more.
  • Sometimes, user-generated content is requested by a brand in exchange for a contest entry.

Popular Storytelling Platforms

  • Mobile technology and pervasive use of smart phones has contributed to the state of marketing and storytelling.
  • Think Snapchats, Vines, YouTube videos, influencers, long/short-form content.
  • Social media distribution and even made-for-TV content is evolving, changing the face of storytelling. Great example of this would be @Dicks film, “We Could Be King.” They won an Emmy in 2015 for its effective storytelling.

Brands have a story to tell and every effort should be made to identify what best resonates with consumers. Julie’s final thoughts on storytelling: “I think great brands actually tell the story of the customer getting what they want within their own brand story.”

This post originally appeared on NYWICI.org.

Your Best Flu Game: Achieving Success

“I was really tired, I was very weak, but somehow I found the energy and stayed strong. I wanted it really bad.” These are the words spoken by all-time NBA great, Michael Jordan immediately following his 1997 “Flu Game” against the Utah Jazz. For those who are unfamiliar with the flu game, it’s a game that basketball enthusiasts will never forget. With flu-like symptoms and a weakened immune system, Michael Jordan scored 38 points and led the Chicago Bulls to victory in the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz.  The series, prior to that game was tied 2-2, however, Jordan’s perseverance gave the Bulls a much-needed edge to win the series. I heard one narrator say “while Jordan was still drained, he was finding the strength to persevere. And with that sheer determination, he would keep Chicago in the game.”

This victory transcends sports. The same determination displayed by Michael Jordan is a key characteristic for success. As professionals, there are times when we are feeling under the weather. However, we cannot allow challenges – physical or emotional, to deter us from achieving our goal. What I loved most about Jordan’s flu game was his selfless determination to pull through for his teammates. As leaders, our decisions impact our team, and a decision to give up will have a domino effect.

This is not to say that we should ignore signs of physical fatigue, illness or emotional setbacks. For optimal well-being, it is to our advantage that we remain in-tune with anything that may prevent us from operating at our highest level of success. What I am saying, however, is that we stay focused on our goal. And, in order to be focused we must clearly identify the goal and know exactly what is required to achieve that goal.

Michael Jordan, by his own admission, knew he was tired, knew he felt weak, but he found the energy and he stayed strong. In other words, Jordan stayed the course. At times you may find yourself feeling drained, and overwhelmed, but don’t give up. Check out my top ten nuggets for achieving success.

  1. Know your goal
  2. Identify steps to achieve your goal
  3. Develop a strategy to achieve your goal
  4. Plan to succeed
  5. Enlist the help of your team
  6. Stay focused. Don’t lose sight of your goal
  7. Know your strengths and rely on those strengths
  8. Find time to rest
  9. Relax, Unwind and Rejuvenate
  10. Follow-through with your goal

Michael Jordan wanted to win. Do you?

 

Muhammad Ali Success Quotes

Late Friday evening, boxing legend Muhammad Ali breathed his final breath and died at the age of 74. . For three decades, Muhammad Ali suffered with Parkinson’s Disease. Although his health continued to decline, Ali continued to fight. This fight was not in the ring, he fought to live.

Throughout his life, Ali inspired people with his impact on boxing, civil rights, education and overall success. There is a scripture in the Bible that says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” – Proverbs 18:21. Muhammad Ali certainly had a way with words. It was those words that led Muhammad Ali to greatness and the reason why we will never forget him. Below are ten of his most memorable and inspiring quotes. 

Muhammad Ali Punching Bag

“I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was. I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I was really the greatest.”

“I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.”

“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”

“We have one life; it soon will be past; what we do for God is all that will last.”

“It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.”

“God’s got me here for something. I can feel it. I was born for everything that I’m doing now.”

“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” 

“Stay in College, get the knowledge, stay there until you are through. If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something of you!”

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

“Silence is golden when you can’t think of a good answer.”

“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them—a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” 

In an Instagram post, Ali’s daughter shared, “All of his organs failed, but his heart wouldn’t stop beating. For 30 minutes… his heart just kept beating…A true testament to the strength of his Spirit and Will!” Muhammad Ali lived and died on his own terms.

Mr. Ali – you have fought the good fight. Rest in Peace.

 

Fighting to Remember

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness month. This month is particularly special to me because my mother was a victim of Alzheimer’s. With respect to all other illnesses, Alzheimer’s is one of the most traumatic and life-altering illnesses out there. I often hear people say, memories last a lifetime, I will never forget you, I may forgive but I’ll never forget. While these cliches sound cute and profound, I dare to say no… not all memories last forever, and yes, one day you may forget.

Alzheimer’s Disease robs people of the very thing we treasure most – our memories. Imagine forgetting every single achievement, degree earned, skills, children and other loved ones. This is a reality for millions. Latest statistics show that 5.4 Million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. Family caregivers spend more than $5,000 a year. As a former caregiver, I can attest that annual caregiving costs far exceed $5,000 a year.

im_going_purple-1024x538Although Alzheimer’s drastically alters the lives of those we love, caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease can be the most rewarding experience. To love someone with all of your heart is the most beautiful gift that God has blessed us with. Caring for your loved one allows you the opportunity to get to know them all over again. If your loved one is suffering with Alzheimer’s, it is important to understand that the person is not changing, the disease is progressing, which impacts their state of mind. Be patient and love them unconditionally. Below are a few things caregivers can do to help their loved ones:

  • Sit with them.
  • Have regular conversations with your loved one.
  • Listen and learn from them. The needs of someone living with Alzheimer’s are quite different than what they were prior to the disease.
  • Show them pictures of family and loved ones.
  • Watch TV with them and explain what’s happening on television.
  • Laugh and smile.
  • Hold their hands and share affection.

People with Alzheimer’s often feed off the energy you project. Although it may be difficult, appear calm, and in control.

The entire Alzheimer’s journey cannot be summarized in one blog post, or several posts. Each experience is unique, and the truth is, we are all Fighting to Remember. I invite you to post your experience with Alzheimer’s in the comment section.

How will you bring awareness to Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month?

 

Should Your Business Implement a Summer Dress Policy

Summer is here, and employees are inclined to wear clothing — shorts, sheer tops, mini skirts — that may be inappropriate for the office. The result can be an increase in inappropriate behavior. “Every business should have, at the very least, some written dress code in their employee handbook or policy manual so that employees know what is not to be worn more so than what can be worn,” says Scott Soder, a human resources consultant who is CEO and co-founder of PayMetrix HR in Atlanta.

The advice is especially relevant for small, new businesses. Establish the image you want to project to customers and clients. Then, the dress code should be consistent with that image. At the same time, employers should be careful to not discriminate based on gender, sex, religion and ethnicity.

dressesThe dress code for employees that frequently interact with the public such as public relations professionals might be different from a desk-bound web manager or editorial director. Employers should consider a few of the following questions when determining summer dress codes, says labor attorney Steven M. Bernstein, a partner in the Tampa, Florida, office of Fisher & Phillips LLP:

  1. What working environment do I hope to achieve, and how would relaxed standards impact overall corporate culture?
  2. What is the practice within our industry, and how will this impact public perception in the local business community?
  3. Have we relaxed standards on Fridays or on other occasions in the past? If so, have employees been willing to hold up their end of the bargain?
  4. Do employees share my view of acceptable business attire, or is the emphasis too often placed on “casual?”
  5. Whether it is casual or business casual dress, the following guidelines for acceptable attire might be helpful for employees:
  • Dockers, pants, suit pants or slacks
  • Skirts, dresses, skirt suits, maxi skirts
  • Blouses, shirts, jackets
  • Modest jewelry

Avoid the following:

  • Shorts, leggings, capri pants, sweatpants
  • Tank tops, revealing tops, halter tops
  • Thong sandals, flip flops, open-toed shoes
  • Clothes with offensive language

While it’s not mandatory that companies implement a dress code, it is good to establish guidelines to avoid any problems. Be sure to enforce the dress code consistently, especially as the warmer months approach. Employers should review policies throughout the year and make adjustments as necessary. Most important, establish a work environment that allows employees to feel comfortable, relaxed and productive.

This post originally appeared on New York Women In Communications Aloud Blog.