Speak Like Martin Luther King Jr: 3 Public Speaking Tips From One of the Greatest

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of history’s most amazing speakers. He had the ability to capture a crowd and inspire the masses. His words still ring of truth even today.  Because of his place in history and his strong public speaking (and it’s Black History Month), there are a few communication lessons to be learned from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

#1 Nonviolent Communication: MLK exemplifies one of the ultimate nonviolent communicators in history. Even with our everyday speech, we need to be mindful of the messages we are sending. Nonviolent communication builds powerful and respectful relationships between individuals. Turning on the television, we are bombarded with messages of violent communication (Have you ever seen Housewives of Atlanta?).  Nonviolent communication stresses revealing our feelings, attempting to not be judgmental, and using active listening.

Lesson to Be Learned:
Listen to complete thoughts before cutting people off. We have the tendency to want to jump right into conversation and voice our opinion while someone is mid sentence. When doing this, we are not giving our audience our fullest attention. We are busy trying to formulate what we will say while the other person is speaking. Listen, wait, and then speak.

#2 Confidence: As a Civil Rights leader, MLK received constant threats to his life and family. I’m sure this caused much stress and fear not only for himself, but his wife and family. Yet, he still spoke with conviction. He stood tall and delivered his message.

Lesson to Be Learned:
Despite being scared, if you truly believe in your message you will deliver it. Don’t let the fear hold you back. Think about how your audience will benefit from your presentation.

#2 Parallelism: Listen to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech and you will notice the numerous uses of parallelism: repetition in sentence structure.  Using this poetic device, makes your message evident and clear to your audience.

Example from the I Have a Dream Speech:
*But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free.
*One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.
*One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

Lesson to Be Learned:
When giving a presentation or speech, you must know what your core message is. You should be able to communicate your message in one sentence. Weave that message throughout your presentation by using Parallelism.

What other speaking tips can we learn from Martin Luther King Jr.?

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Are You Judging Me? Why, Yes I am!

Imagine that you’re at the Grocery store:

Clerk: Um, are you really about to purchase that tub of ice cream?
Customer: Yes. (Why else would it be on the belt, Sherlock?)
Clerk: I really think that’s a baaaaad idea. You know that it’s going to go straight to your thighs, right? And, by the looks of things (as she looks you up and down), you don’t need even a spoonful.
Customer: (jumping over the counter with her hands around the clerk’s neck).

Surely, we don’t need to be evaluated on every purchase we make (If I were, I would have such low self-esteem). Being evaluated has its time and place. You may not care to hear what your grocery store clerk has to say about your food options, but you should definitely be interested in what your audience feels about your presentation. If you want to improve, you need to know about the stuff you did right and the crap you did wrong!

Here are 3 ways to get feedback on your next presentation, speech, or company training:

#1 Send a Survey:
*Pass around a quick paper survey asking questions about the presenter, the presentation, the materials, and the content.
*Consider sending an electronic survey using Survey Monkey or similar software.

#2 Recruit a Colleague:
*Do you already know what you’d like to improve on? Tell a colleague and have them look out for that. Ask them about anything else that may help to improve your presentation. Remember my Signature Words? Well, I have a colleague who watches out for lame word usage each time I give an online training.

3 Record Yourself (& Self-Reflection)
*You find so many great tidbits of information about yourself once you see yourself in living color. (You may be pleasantly surprised). Use this video to watch for areas of improvement.

#4 Ask for it!
*I recently did a business meeting and was surprised to find that there was no follow-up debrief.  Since I wanted to improve, I requested a meeting to discuss what I did wrong and what I did right. As Ghandi once said, If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Seek out performance reviews, debriefs, and feedback.

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I’m Already Slacking on my 2012 Goals!


It’s the 18th day of January, and I’m slacking on my 2012 goals!!  Yikes!  What’s going to happen on the other  347 days.

At the last minute, I was asked to speak about why my Toastmaster’s club is so successful. And of course, I mumbled and grumbled because I didn’t want to do it.  Matter of fact, I was looking for the nearest exit!  (Did I seriously forget that one of my goals is to speak EVERY chance I get! Worse yet, did I seriously forget that I am a member of Toastmasters and the MAIN reason I joined was to be a better speaker!).

I had to put on the brakes!  Hold up, wait a minute. I’ve been in Toastmasters for almost a year now. I’ve given numerous prepared speeches and have worked on my off the cuff speaking through Table Topics. I CAN DO THIS!  So, I mustered up courage, got up there, and gave a 3 minute speech (yes, it was a measly 180 second speech) about why my club is a-w-e-s-o-m-e.

I realized one MAJOR thing after stepping down from the stage?

My fear of public speaking is slowly disappearing into the atmosphere. I used to totally get worked up about what the audience thought about me: Do they think my clothes look nice?  Is there food hanging from my mouth? Man, they must think I’m a dummy for saying that word. Is the audience bored to death?

Sure, I’m not 100% comfortable in front of strangers. But, I have come so far!! I don’t suffer from nervous sweats, a fast beating heart, blank out moments, or stuttering. Through practice and building confidence in myself, I am slowly becoming that amazing speaker that I’m striving to be.

People always talk about being fearful of public speaking?  But, what is it about public speaking that terrifies you?

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Speak Like Margaret Thatcher: 5 Public Speaking Tips from the “Iron Lady”

Source: UnitedBritannia

The “Iron Lady” starring Meryl Streep opened nationwide this week. As expected, Meryl Streep did a wonderful portrayal of the political (and personal) life of Margaret Thatcher. After seeing the movie, I was reminded there is much to be learned from Margaret Thatcher.  Before I begin, let me say, that yes, I was about 2 years old when she first became Prime Minister.  But, as a woman who is on a quest to improve her confidence in public speaking, I have taken note from the greats of the past.

Agree or Disagree with her leadership style or political stance, Margaret Thatcher was a force to be reckoned with. The “Iron Lady” is not necessarily known for her public speaking, but one cannot deny the fact that she used speaking as a platform to not only catapult her into the Parliament, but also make her the first female Prime Minister in England.

As a speaker and a leader, Margaret Thatcher had to command attention in a room dominated by males and in a society dominated by sexism. She had to make her voice heard, when many people didn’t want to see females in a position of power.  Margaret Thatcher is a woman that females (and males alike) can learn a thing or two from:

#1 Dress the Part:  Margaret Thatcher had a look. Generally, she wore a blue professional business suit and a string of pearls. She also wore handbags that became an iconic symbol of her leadership.  Her attire showed that she was to be taken seriously as a political figure. Consider having your own look with colors and accessories that are both professional and tasteful.  It doesn’t always have to be one look, but having those consistent elements for a given role helps.

#2 Hold on to Your Core Values: Margaret Thatcher wasn’t called the “Iron Lady” for nothing. This term came about from her unwavering commitment to her values and the values of the conservative party.  As a speaker and leader, you should bring out your own unique voice and personality. Use that as your personal style.

#3 Get a Coach:  Initially,  some people thought her voice was too high pitched and screechy. As a result, her media advisor sought to polish her appearance and speech. She ultimately deepened her tone, carried a thought with one breathe, and began to speak with authority. You may not need to go as far as hiring a voice coach, but organizations such as Toastmasters may help you become a better speaker.

#4 Pull at the Heart Strings: When speaking, you notice that Margaret Thatcher was extremely adept at riling up her constituents and injecting emotion into her speeches. She made a connection between what she was saying and her audience members. When speaking, understand what motivates and moves your audience. Then tailor your speech accordingly. Use relatable stories and examples. Find parallelism between your speech and their lives.

#5 Be Prepared:  Margaret Thatcher researched and practiced many of her speeches. Being prepared shows that you know what you’re talking about, increases your credibility, and can potentially decrease your nervousness.

 What other tips can we learn from the “Iron Lady” or other female political leaders both past and present?

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1. BBC History
2. Newsweek Article by Amanda Foreman, The New Thatcher Era
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Are You Sure You’re Prepared to Give Your Next Training?

I generally give the same type of training all of the time – train teachers how to use education software. However, I treat each new training as if it were the first training I was about to give. No matter if it’s the hundredth presentation, I always answer the following questions:

#1 What type of training will take place?  What is the purpose of the training?
Keep In Mind: Think about who the audience is and the information to be learned. Design your training around the gap between what the audience knows now and what they should know by the end of the session.

#2 How do you plan to establish rapport before the training starts?
Consider: contacting the participants prior to the session, sending a survey to understand their training needs
Keep In Mind: Collecting this information can be valuable in preparing for the upcoming training.

#3 What training materials are needed?
Consider: handouts, PowerPoint, flipcharts, writing instruments, flash drive, computer, agenda, post-it notes, breathe mints (don’t forget those!)
Keep In Mind: It may be helpful to create a trainer’s checklist to keep track of everything needed for the training.

#4 Do you know the training day logistics?
Consider: location, time, room arrangement, availability of technology
Keep In Mind: If problems arise (especially with technology), make sure to have a Plan B!

#5 What type of activities will help the participants understand the material? How will you engage the participants?
Consider: group work, brainstorming sessions, games, think-pair-share activities, role-play, using computer software
Keep In Mind: Organize the activities beforehand and think about how the activity fits into the content. Don’t just do an activity just to do one! Think about how to introduce it and other logistics.

#6 What obstacles stand in the way of delivering your content?
Keep In Mind: Your audience will bring preconceived ideas, both positive and negative, about the information you present. Think about how you will deal with individuals who have negative thinking about the information. Yes, you will deal with hecklers!

#7 How will you know the participants have understood the concepts?  How will they demonstrate they have learned the knowledge?
Consider: survey, quiz, game show, demonstration
Keep In Mind: Sometimes the change in knowledge occurs long after the training has ended.

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Warning: 4 Small Mistakes That May Diminish Your Message

Whew! You’ve just finished giving a business proposal or a company presentation. You feel more relaxed and are glad it’s over. Everyone in the auditorium claps. One problem: your audience was completely disengaged. They are looking to quickly move on to the next topic or head towards the nearest exit.

This happened to me last year when I gave a short training session. I spoke for an hour, and my point was lost on most of the audience. They were most likely clapping not because they learned something, but because I had finished speaking! Yikes!

Since then, I have learned a number of tidbits that have helped build my confidence and allow my message to shine:

#1 Who you lookin’ at?
Well, you should be looking at your audience!  Lock eyes for a few seconds with different individuals in the room. Make that connection. Your eyes should not rest on one side of the room or even over the tops of people’s heads. Look at people on the right, left, front, and back of the room.

#2 Do you sound like the dorky professor?
You know the one I’m talking about — the monotone professor who stood in one place and droned on and on. Don’t be that way. Vary the tone and pitch of your voice. Use the power of the PAUSE! Use excitement to make points. Whisper on quieter points.  Just don’t sound the same throughout the presentation.

#3 Caught You Red-Handed!
When talking, where do you usually place your hands?  Are you fumbling with a pen? Do you have a death grip on the lectern? Or, do you look like an orchestra conductor?  Are your arms crossing your body? Be mindful of your hands. Be mindful of their location.  Make sure your hands add to your presentation, not detract from it.

#4 I am um here to um talk about um the proposal.
See a theme here?  Ums and Ahs. I’ve heard speakers who use ums and ahs so much that I concentrate more on those ‘filler’ words than I do on what they are saying. Don’t let your speech get clogged with detracting words. Slow down. Think about what you’re saying and refrain from the ums.

What are some quirky things that you do when speaking? And, how have you overcome them?

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Goals 2012: Becoming that ‘hold my head up high when speaking because I know I’m bad’ Communicator

Communication starts with knowing yourself. Knowing both the inner you and how you are perceived by others. Your words say a lot. Your actions say a lot more (just ask my boyfriend after I roll my eyes at him).  This year I plan to focus on building my communication skills to become confident and a better public speaker.

So, here are my communication goals for 2012:

#1 Be Honest When Speaking

Sometimes I don’t feel I’m honest with myself or others when I’m communicating. I say yes to things I really want to say hell no to. I say I will help out with something when I really know I have other things I need to do. I have a hard time speaking my truth.

Now: Wanting to please folks by saying yes I will do things.
The Goal: Be true to my feelings about what I will or will not do and make that vocal.

#2 Deliberate Practice

I read over at Study Hacks that deliberate practice is necessary to improve and become an expert. Deliberate is not haphazard, accidental, or wishy washy. It is spending dedicated amounts of time doing something in order to learn it well. In other words, good ‘ol fashion HARD WORK.

Now:  I practice speeches only when I have one in the near future.
The Goal:  I will practice a speech at least 3 times a week regardless if I have a speech to give or not.

#3 Be an Active Listener

I hate to admit it, but my mind sometimes tends to drift off when people speak to me. It starts to sound like the teacher from Charlie Brown. Then after a few minutes of being in La la land, I snap back, smile, shake my head in agreement, all the while saying That’s Awesome!

Now:  An occasional Inactive Listener
The Goal:  Really take in what others are saying and respond with critical questions or comments. Be engaged!

#4 Become More Engaging

I am slowly becoming more and more comfortable with speaking in front of people. I would like to be myself when speaking just as much as I am myself when I’m at home. I would like to feel confident, knowledgeable, and in touch with the audience.

Now:  A bit timid and not comfortable with being myself in front of people.
The Goal: Be myself on stage. Be silly. Be engaging. Be active.

What are your goals (communication or otherwise) for the 2012 year?

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