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

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.


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.

Behind the Scenes of a Conference Call

Have you ever participated in a conference call and had to deal with those frustrating entrance and exit tones? Well, I certainly have. However, it’s not just the tones, participants also have to deal with bad connections, dogs barking in the background, babies crying, and other distracting noises. As much as I prefer meetings via conference call, I always dread the “noise.”

I love this video because it perfectly depicts what actually takes place on a conference call. Take a look and share your thoughts.

Inter-Generational Marketing

Did you know that Generation Z is tech savvy, while Generation Y is super confident, diverse, liberal and more hands-on than Generation X? When targeting different generations, marketers need to understand their audience and adjust their marketing tactics, since each generation has unique expectations and lifestyles, which in turn will influence their purchasing behaviors.

As moderator of NYWICI’s bi-weekly Twitter chat, I had the opportunity to interview Erica Martell, a marketing and communications consultant. Martell shared vital information about the effectiveness of customized inter-generational marketing. “Shifting demographics impact every business,” says Erica. “Communications’ professionals know how to connect, using buzz words.”

Researchers have defined the various “generations” as

Mature/Pre-depression, sometimes also referred to as “The Silent Generation” (born between 1927 – 1945)
Baby Boomers (born between 1946 – 1964)
Generation X (born between 1965 – 1980)
Generation Y/Millennium (born between 1981-2000)
Generation Z (born after 2001)

According to Erica, the “practice of segmenting the population is based on various demographic and psychographic factors.” Understanding their unique characteristics, experiences and needs can help marketers target their message. This is important because “one size marketing does not fit all.”

An interesting fact shared by Erica is that by 2030, Millennials will outnumber Boomers by more than 22 million. And although the year 2030 may not seem so far away, it is important for marketers to know that “seniors are currently the largest demographic, with 70% discretionary income and mega buying power.” In addition, “seniors value honest, optimistic language and premium service, making it all about them.” When developing targeted marketing campaigns, a thorough knowledge of these generational trends should be the driving force behind every effective customized marketing strategy.

Additional tidbits shared by Erica during the hour-long Twitter chat included:

  • Marketers creatively target all generations via Instagram, Vine, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter
  • Social Media will continue to evolve in 2015 as will generational participation
  • Marketers are using Infographics to get key points across visually and instantly to convey their message
  • “It is not unusual for several generations to live under one roof with different values and experiences, especially since the 2009 recession,” says Erica. “Therefore, it is important to cater to culture and generational values and experiences.”

Lastly, consumers want to be assured that they can trust a brand. Erica reminds us that marketers must initiate genuine relationships, demonstrate value and respond to each community’s terms.

This post originally appeared in NYWICI’s Aloud blog. You may read all of my NYWICI Aloud posts here.