Stop rolling the dice.
When considering hiring a keynote speaker, here's some helpful tips to avoid the embarrassment or waste of money.
Cheers to your next event having the perfect speaker and your audience experiencing a home run. Then sit back while everyone heaps praise on you for making the event so solid!
The picture says it all really. A woman with a toddler in Starbucks got my attention when she crouched down to communicate with the boy. This isn't so much a parenting lesson, but a leadership one. Seriously though, how many times have you seen an adult in public demonstrate such incredible tact when it comes to communication? I was stunned at how unique this moment was.
How do you connect yourself with those who are supposed to follow you? You get on their level. Let's get practical.
1. Ask them about things they care about. Do they like soccer? Are they into jazz music? What about that new pair of shoes they're wearing? How about asking about their kids?
2. Seek out their opinion. The office party is next week. You ask Tiffany what kind of food to order for the team to eat. Tiffany says pasta and ice cream. You order pasta and ice cream.
3. Become one of them. As a lacrosse coach, I'd put on a helmet and demonstrate what I expected from a certain drill during practice.
4. Don't talk down to them. Great leaders never ever make people feel inferior. They make them feel that it's a total pleasure to follow them and work with and for them.
I was minding my own business. I don't even know why she did it. But she did. Lisa did.
For reasons I still cannot fathom, Lisa stabbed my hand with a pencil. We were in fourth grade in Alameda, CA. Maybe she had a crush on me, but I have to say that's a weird way to express your feelings. The pencil had been sharpened to a sharp point and the lead broke off UNDER MY SKIN.
Now, you could say that's no big deal. But here's the kicker. It's still there. I just looked at it. You can look too in this picture.
I wonder how much of what I do or say stays with people long after the fact. Do you ever wonder that? Like that time you told Freddy to meet you at 3PM for coffee down the street at the cafe. Why didn't he show up? Is it his fault? Maybe. And maybe it's yours.
I'm in the process of writing a book on communication. It's taking longer than I want it to, but I have to get it just right before publishing it. Within its pages, the goal is to help empower you to become, yes you guessed it, a more adept communicator. Whether you're talking to your boss, or presenting a keynote, the ability to make your words stick is crucial. One way to do this is through repetition.
Your audience needs you to repeat and repeat and repeat the information. Years ago, I stumbled upon an audio training for increasing memory power. Yes, it was a bit corny, but I gave it a chance and took away this great tool. The audio host talked about being at a cocktail party.
Same scenario. Different methods. See if you can spot what changed.
At a cocktail party: Hi, I’m Brenda, and you are?
Nice to meet you.
Blah blah blah
Conversation ends and you both walk away.
*Many times, you’ve already forgotten his name is Keenan!
Hi, I’m Brenda, and you are?
It’s great to meet you, Keenan.
blah blah blah
Great talking with you Keenan, enjoy your evening.
Conversation ends with Brenda much more likely able to recall Keenan’s name than he is hers. What gets repeated gets remembered.
Fast forward to a week after that party, Brenda thought Keenan was handsome and hilarious
and is anxiously wondering if he’ll try to track her down. Keenan thought Brenda was great too
but can’t REMEMBER HER NAME. Poor Kennan. Shoulda woulda coulda, buddy.
Repetition - one way for you to ensure that the information is mentally embedded under their skin. Thanks for the lead in my hand Lisa, it's become a great life lesson.
As you consider the people that make up your group, what is your first move? The smartest thing to do from the outset is to gather them. Immediately join forces. Don’t let a single person feel left out. Bond them together with you and with each other. This gathered time should be both omnidirectional and bidirectional.
Omnidirectional:You need to create an opportunity for everyone to look at each other and be on the same level. Everyone should be validated and known, not just by you, but by everyone else. This could be as simple as wearing name tags, or as involved as taking an overnight retreat with them. As you respect them by giving them a voice, they’ll respect you for your humility.
Bidirectional: There must also be time for you to talk and for them simply to listen and understand. Let them ask questions. Make them repeat important points back to you. Summarize the essentials at the end of this time.
When time is short, get right to the point. Most times, though, you’ll have more of a cushion when it comes to the length of the gathering, but please, please don’t hold people hostage in meetings while you drone on and on about inconsequential details.
Time is of the essence. As the leader, you must discern the right amount of time to invest into your gathering stage. Gathering is imperative. Your hidden advantage as the leader during this time is that you’ll immediately gain insight into personalities and character traits.
When you’re the leader, keep in mind that there are actually three types of dynamics within your group.
1.You and the group as a whole
2.You and the individual members
3.Individual members and each other
You are responsible for all three, all the time.
If one member has an issue with another member, it’s your responsibility to manage it. If two members are making another feel horrible, it’s your responsibility to handle it. That’s what a leader does. I’m not saying you need to have your nose in everyone’s tiniest issue, but you must be aware of and foster synergy within your group.
This is where decisions must fall to the leader. Do you lead the group to vote and have a democratic outcome? Do you pull aside the brightest members and ask their opinions? Do you simply decide for the group with no one else's input? None of those answers are wrong if you have the group’s best interest in mind. Remember that you’re the leader for a reason. The group needs you to lead. There is in fact a real problem that must be solved, and you may not have a lot of time.
A great leader knows how to clearly explain the final goal. I’ve heard this step described as “defining the win.” How does everyone know if progress is being made? How do they know when it’s over and if they were successful? In some situations, like in a soccer game, it’s obvious. Whoever has more points when time runs out wins. Great leaders know how to define goals when they might be hard to pinpoint.
You can’t do it all on your own, and as a leader, you shouldn’t. Your group needs you to lead them. Give the tasks away. Give the responsibilities away. Then make your way around the group, checking in with your team as the tasks are being completed. I’d encourage you to get your hands dirty with them. Offer guidance and/or advice for their specific task when necessary. Be careful to do this with the right attitude, though. You want to encourage and not discourage them. You should also pinpoint other members with leadership skills or influential personalities. Hand off supervisor- type responsibilities to them and trust them to be wise with their duties. Let them oversee sections of the group. Make sure you make it clear to those that these leaders oversee that you’ve put them somewhat in charge. Have these supervisors field questions and sort out problems on your behalf.
Here’s my mantra for you when it comes to this:
Either stop doing everything yourself, or accept that you are merely a hard worker, not a leader. Leaders delegate.
Tasks now need to be completed in order to accomplish your goal. Send everyone out with passion and purpose in your voice. Give them a strong reason to believe that they matter and belong to the group.
Applebee’s was a great place to work. The managers were always easy for me to get along with. One thing I appreciated about them was their mobility throughout their shift. When one person gets behind in their duties at a restaurant, it’s called being “in the weeds.” Each time staff members were “weeded,” a manager would jump in with them at their station. Cooking fries, making salads, washing dishes, busing tables. The way they knew when someone was weeded was from constantly making their way from place to place around the restaurant, checking in. Sometimes they’d merely observe without engaging in any conversation. If a person at a particular station was getting behind, the manager would roll up his or her sleeves and carry some of the load for a few minutes.
After you deploy your members, you need to stay connected to them and help when you can. Just do NOT get stuck for an extended period of time with one or two members. Two things will happen. First, the members that you’re not with may (and sometimes rightly so!) feel that you don’t like them as much. This could be hazardous to your leadership. People that feel neglected and out of the loop will start talking to each other...about you. Always. And it’s rarely positive talking. Second, another member may get “in the weeds,” and you’d have no idea. If one person gets behind, it will eventually affect the whole group’s progress.
When the day is done, when the work is done, whether you accomplished your goal or not, you must bring the group together to discuss what happened. Remember this imperative point, though:
Praise individuals PUBLICLY and criticize individuals PRIVATELY.
Shaming someone in public almost never has the effect you think it will have. In fact, it usually backfires.
In gym class competitions, my skill level ranged from average to downright terrible. I was, for most of my life, among the last-picked students when selecting teams for any sport. Soccer, basketball, tennis, football, softball -ahhh, softball. This was my sport on an unforgettable day in ninth grade.
For one spectacular thirty-minute class period, I somehow channeled Babe Ruth and destroyed every pitch that came my way. It was remarkable. I was remarkable. I mattered because I produced runs. My hits drove in runners, and we wrecked the other team. The pats on the back and free-flowing accolades were water to my thirsty soul. But the best was yet to come - the next day, when I was made to feel like I actually belonged to something. We lined up as usual in the grass beside the baseball diamond. Usually, I would hang in the back, trying not to care, but this time - I was picked...first. By Ricky. An upperclassman. He had seen my monstrous slugging percentage the day before.
Two things were true at that moment in my life when I was fifteen years old. The reason I felt so great was that I brought value to the team and knew my leader and teammates wanted me around.
I don’t share that story to point out Ricky’s leadership, but more to prove to you that what he did made me feel like I mattered and belonged. I still remember his name all these years. Organizing a group of people to win a softball game or complete a task is not easy in and of itself. However, next-level leadership is when you not only succeed at the task, but build a bridge of respect between you and your followers. If you consistently lead them into failing situations, they’ll stop following you. But If you consistently lead them without valuing and knowing them, they’ll stop respectingyou or never actually respect you in the first place.
The best leaders know how to give those that follow them what they need. They know how to make them feel that they matter and belong. When leaders meet these two needs for their followers, they will form a faithful and dedicated team.
Leadership is not about you as much as it’s about them.
A year and a half after beginning my journey as a youth speaker, I got an email from a principal in the Bahamas. In October 2012 I came here to speak at his school as well as two other schools. It was magical to say the least. I became friends with the principal on Facebook and kept in touch every few months, especially when a hurricane would hit, I would always check in with him to see how he was doing.
A few months ago, he emailed to see if I would come back and I gladly accepted his invitation. I do not take coming here lightly, even though I could get caught up in the beauty of this place. I left my heart on the floor yesterday after four presentations at his school.
I have spoken at hundreds of schools in the middle of nowhere and then schools like this in the middle of paradise. I have stayed in disgusting hotel rooms and driven through snowstorms with white knuckles. Now I find myself back in the arms of paradise doing what I love most.
Do not be fooled into thinking that opportunities will comes easy. Give it everything you’ve got and stay humble and the blessings will come.
Treat every opportunity as a gift and treat every person like they're a big deal.
Will it really make a difference if I bring Mike in to speak? The proof is in the pudding, they say. So here's the pudding.
My name is Connie and you spoke at my school today ( XXXXX Middle School).
If you don't remember me, but you signed my arm! Though you signed lots of kids arms. I wanted to tell you how inspirational you were, and that right now I am going through the same thing you did. I just moved from Missouri to North Carolina, and as you would know it is hard being the new kid. I don't really have any friends and all I can think about is my old home. I can be really shy so that makes it hard. I now know that I am not alone and I am going to try harder to make friends, and be who I want to be. Don't tell anyone but my dream is to be a model. And so many people have told me to dream a little less, or that it will never happen, and I know it will be a lot of work, but because of you I know that I can do anything I put my mind to. Also one last thing, back at my old school I was miss Queen B everyone loved me, wanted to be my friend, but they didn't know my life at home. My parents were fighting 24/7 and I was caught up in drama with my best friend. So many times I thought about ending my life, but I didn't because somehow I knew that things would change and it wasn't worth it, and they did. I met my now best friend in the entire world, and now my parents love each other more than anything. You really touched my soul, and I am really happy for all the kids that get to listen to you talk, because if you connect with them and touch their hearts like you touched mine, I know they will live their lives to the fullest, and be able to speak out to other people about things that might be going on in their life. I would like to thank you again, and I will make sure when I die people will say " She was a hero".
Scrawled in a red marker, that's what the note said. A student handed me a folded piece of paper after an assembly and told me to read it later. That afternoon, I unfolded the note and read it.
The fact is that I saved no-ones life that day. The truth saved them. It gave them hope. The truth that they are valuable beyond what they accomplish or how they perform. That they are not damaged goods. That they are not defined by their past.
How can your students or employees or team members function at their highest capacity if they are incapable of escaping the demons that haunt them? What if that was your main goal today? To bring an emotional first-aid kit with you into every situation. Let's be first responders today. Let's leave one person feeling stronger, more joyful, or perhaps even hopeful that they can stay alive to see the sunrise tomorrow.