Gail Bower's Blog

Gail BowerThis blog will help you and your organization flourish.

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Entries in Events (3)


#DrivingParticipation podcast: Beth Brodovsky talks with Gail Bower about engagement

My friend and colleague Beth Brodovsky, president of Iris Creative, recently interviewed me for her new Driving Participation podcast that explores what's working "to get people to show up, stick around and give back."

Gail Bower talks with Beth Brodovsky about how to use events to #DriveParticipationHave a listendownload to listen later, or read the transcript to find out more about how to leverage your events to engage donors, members, sponsors, and customers with your mission or purpose. 

You can subscribe to the series through iTunes so you don't miss an episode.


Are you seduced by social media?

Too many people are seduced by social media. Too many people are tricked into thinking it’s free and set the default to free.

Click to read more ...


Tips on talking: banishing blah blah blah

Has this ever happened to you at an event? You're having a nice time, networking, connecting to the cause or conference, or having fun at a festival or fair, when suddenly the collective energy spirals to a stop.

Someone is standing on the stage, holding the microphone, and all you hear is "blah blah blah blah blah blah." A montonous stream of words exits the speaker's mouth and tumbles out of the sound system, casting a pall over the audience. 

Public Speaking Tips

Here are 4 tips to help you improve your speakers' or your own presence as a public speaker, even in short roles.

1. Don't read.

I advise a client on an awards event that is part fundraiser and part influence-builder. Through our strategy, we engage civic leaders from disparate arenas in brief but meaningful speaking roles. The speaking effectiveness has been equally diverse.

Here's my petpeeve: reading remarks. If you have a :30 to 1 minute speaking role, jot a few bullet points and talk to us. Do not read to us. It's deadening, and as I learned from a speaking coach I worked with early on, the audience will forgive you of anything except being boring. Worse, you sound disengaged and dispassionate, coming across as if you invested no time or energy in your role. If you can't make that small commitment, decline the speaking engagement.

If your speaking engagement is longer, your notes may need to be in another form, and it's perfectly acceptable to use them — discreetly. You may also benefit from mnemonic devices. Or you may do well with training or personal coaching to build your speaking presence and skills.

2. More is not more.

How many events have you been to where a speaker gets on stage to make "brief" remarks and talks so long you think the person has moved in? Me, too.

People, more is not more. If you haven't noticed, we have become an attention-span deprived culture. Even if we're at a professional development event or class, our key reason for being at an event is probably not to hear speakers pontificating. The pontificator list includes:

  • sponsors with unclear messages or blah blah blah about how wonderful their companies are,
  • many politicians, especially before an election,
  • presenters who are really nervous, and
  • people who seem to love to hear themselves talk.

Imagine listening to yourself as an audience member. Are you telling a story? Are you making me laugh? Am I engaged or emotionally moved? Am I gobsmacked by a new discovery or statistic or result? Or am I hearing blah blah blah? What's the experience you want to deliver?

4. It's not about you.

An event is really about a connection between the audience and the subject matter. Even if you're receiving an award, the event is really not about you. It's about engaging and transforming the audience.

Tell us something inspiring. How did you get to this place to win this award? How did you do it? How can I emulate your behavior and improve my life? How can I follow in your footsteps and make the world better?

4. Contain yourself.

It's natural to feel nervous about speaking. You're up there all by yourself with hundreds of faces staring at you, waiting for brilliance, and who knows if the sound system will work or if, unbenownst to you, the static electricity in your pant legs is exposing your socks and bare legs (yes, I saw this once).

As the saying goes: "Keep calm and carry on." The audience reflects your energy right back to you. Breath. Relax. Be in control and contain your emotions.

Once at a major conference for a top national association where I spoke, even they had challenges. The sound from another session was broadcasting into my meeting room, precluding my audience from hearing me. 

I could feel myself getting angry and flummoxed — how could I simultaneously handle the problem and continue speaking? Afterall, the show must go on, right?

I took a deep breath and soon realized the audience was as aggravated if not more so than I. They took care of it. Several people ran out to find a tech guy. People complained to the organizers and in evaluations. I realized this was not my problem but rather my opportunity.

I continued my talk, calmly and with large doses of humor, maintaining continuity in my subject matter, so the audience stayed with me. At the end, the audience applauded — not necessarily because I was so brilliant, but because together we achieved success. I maintained control of the room and session, and they got what they came for.

Practice staying calm and relaxed behind the microphone. Make your presentation about the audience.

Whether you're speaking or your engaging speakers for an event, don't leave their speaking behaviors to chance. Craft strong messages. Prepare your speakers. And consider training if necessary. Just don't blah blah blah us.