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You've finished writing; now the work really begins

editing writing Jan 15, 2020

A couple of months ago I was taking part in a workshop with that wonderful Newfoundland writer, Donna Morrissey. A novel-writing class with the award-winning author of Sylvanus Now, The Fortunate Brother, and Kit’s Law, was pretty daunting - especially for those of us who’ve spent a lifetime writing a very different type of prose.

Everyone had to submit a story for Donna to critique. No-one escaped. She looked at one contribution, nodded, smiled and offered her opinion:

“There’s something in here. But you’ve written four thousand words. I want you to reduce it to one thousand.”

The gulp of horror echoed off the walls. The student looked pale. “I don’t think I can do that. I’ll lose the story.”

Donna smiled again. “Trust me. Reduce it to a quarter of its size and you will find the story.”

And that’s the idea I want to share in this blog.

We all get called on to write something from time to time: an outline...

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A CEO's quest for a better way of speaking

speech writing Jan 15, 2020

Once a upon a time there was a CEO. He had to make a speech to some very important and influential people. So he hired a speech writer.

The minute he looked at the speech, he knew he was in big trouble. He knew that with the script he’d been given he wouldn’t be able to achieve the change he wanted. He wouldn’t have the impact he wanted. He wouldn’t be perceived the way he wanted to be perceived.

He said: “We have to find a better way of doing this.” So he hired a presentation coach who knew how to do things differently; who showed him how to rework his speech quickly and easily; who captured his authentic voice; and helped him make a real impact with lasting results.

The coach had shown the CEO not only how to change his speech but when the CEO delivered the speech, he realized that something had also changed in him. Not only did he feel different - his audience perceived him as authentic and heartfelt. The CEO knew he had touched the soul of his...

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Wildfires in Oz: fund-raiser with a difference

Uncategorized Jan 15, 2020

If you’ve seen any of those horrific pictures from the wildfire disaster in Australia, you may have wondered ‘what can I do to help?’

Here’s something you could consider… something a little different from simply donating a few dollars to an appeal fund.

Speak Out for Australia is a fund-raiser with a difference. The difference is, you don’t just give. You get something really valuable in return. It’s happening right here in Nova Scotia, and across Canada.

Speak Out for Australia will feature some of the best speakers, trainers and facilitators in Canada, offering their services free of charge to support the relief effort. The presenters and facilitators at this day-long event are all leaders in their fields.

In exchange for a $150 donation to the relief effort, participants will get a chance to experience professional and personal development coaching that would normally cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

This is the brainchild of CAPS...

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Be a speaker, first - and then a writer

talkitout Jan 15, 2020

Our brains are wired for speech naturally. Children learn to speak at a very early age. They learn to read and write later. You can speak and understand a language, without necessarily reading or writing it.

From the cradle we become used to the patterns, the cadences, the rhythms of speech. So it’s easier for us to receive and understand conversational speech rather than hearing something that has been written more formally and then spoken. Writing something first, then speaking it, goes against our natural instincts.

Yet many of us still insist on writing our speeches or presentations in silence, using only our eyes as judge and jury. The only way to truly impact the brains of your audience is to deliver words in the manner they have been accustomed from birth to receive them. By using the naturally spoken language, not the written language.

When you are preparing or rehearsing a presentation, say your sentence out loud. Listen to it. Say if over and over to find the most...

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Out with the old, and let in new ideas

Uncategorized Jan 14, 2020

I cleaned out my office this month. It took four days. I got rid of a mountain of old dead files, two filing cabinets, a pile of CDs (what did we ever use those for?) and various knick-knacks that were just collecting dust.

I wound up with lots more space, a place for everything important and an office which is a delight to work in. You know the old saying - out with the old so the new can come in - or something along those lines.

I feel energized because of this cleanup. In this newly energized office, my next objective is to rework some of my set content. Out with the way I’ve always done it. In with fresh new ideas.

So I encourage you to look anew at your office, or work habits, or training or sales pitch or speeches and presentations. Rework them with new energy and ideas.

If you don’t have any idea, start by physically cleaning or reorganizing your office. And it doesn’t have to be a big massive cleanup. Do enough to let in new energy. It will spill over to...

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Looking for quick tips? Check these videos

public speaking Dec 13, 2019

Have you checked out our 10 Second Tips yet? We’ve put together about 15 snippets of advice for presenters and speakers - and they’re all really short… around the 10 second mark.

Obviously in ten seconds we’re not going to go deep into the topics. These short videos are intended as little prompts, reminders of best practices if you really want your message to resonate with an audience.

So we’ve compiled some tips and techniques that, over years of delivering our popular TalkitOut coaching workshops, we’ve found to be absolutely central to good presentations.

The first two have been posted on Facebook and Instagram. We’ve started a video playlist on Facebook, so if you missed the first two, you can catch up here. And don’t forget to check every Monday for a new tip.

The topics include how to start a speech or presentation, how to connect with an audience, the importance of telling stories, the persuasive power of passion, and the...

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Why news alerts are not giving you the whole story

media Dec 13, 2019

Your phone just pinged and you checked the news alert. You may be up-to-the-minute, but are you well-informed?

The question is prompted by some research done this month in the UK, into how people have been keeping ‘informed’ about the election that just ended in a crushing win for Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.

Millions of us have news apps on our smartphones, giving us ‘push notifications’ about the latest news.

While some people will read the full story associated with the notification, research shows that the majority of push alerts are not acted upon. In other words, the one-line headlines may be the only perspective people get, and those one-liners drive their opinions and actions.

In early December, the Guardian newspaper did some research that revealed for the first time how smartphone users consumed election news. Some of the subjects of the research read no news articles at all, instead gaining all of their understanding from headlines on...

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When you need a shift, you need a story

leadership story Dec 12, 2019

Stories are all about shifts. Shifts from loser to victor, from oppressed to liberated, from lost to found, from unloved to loved.

That’s why stories are such effective tools for communicating a vision of change, for persuading people to think or act differently.

From time to time we still run across business leaders who disparage storytelling and demand ‘the facts, just the facts’. But they are fast being replaced by leaders who embrace story as a tool for making their all-important facts resonate with an audience.

That’s why Columbia and UBC Sauder in Vancouver and other top business schools teach storytelling to students: they understand that a story, well-chosen and well-told, is the fast track to connecting with both the mind and the heart of the listener.

Canadian author Margaret Atwood has a great quote about storytelling: “You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it's built into the human plan. We come with it.”

We are all...

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Tired of political bluster? Try this antidote

public speaking Dec 12, 2019

If, as speakers and presenters, our only source of inspiration came from politicians, our spirits would be plumbing the depths. It’s easy to think that public discourse these days is dominated by bare-faced liars, cheats and dissemblers. Any speech from them, we can safely guess, would be an amalgam of bluster, bravado and self-aggrandizement.

Thankfully, there are other sources of inspiration. It’s just that they don’t usually get the big headlines and the air-time that the gaseous politicians bask in.

To redress the balance, here are some extracts from speeches that celebrate humanity and encourage everyone to be the best they can be. As well as being little treasures in their own right, they all are models against which we can all enhance our speaking skills.

Actress and producer Glenn Close gave the commencement address at William and Mary University. Here's a fragment:

"We die without connection. Nothing is worse for us humans than to be bereft of...

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Sticky storytelling: the key to being remembered

If you really want to make your messages memorable, turn your words into images.

If you’re delivering a speech or presentation, it’s probably not the mass of your words that will convince an audience to march to your drum. More likely, it’s the few telling images that your words evoke in the minds of the audience.

An ABC reporter named Robert Krulwich used to talk about Sticky Storytelling. He specialized in reporting scientific topics to a lay audience. No easy task. But Krulwich always found a way.

Here’s what he said: “Like any storyteller, I want my audience’s complete attention while I am on the screen. But what I really want is a couple of hours after I’ve finished, I want some of them, half would be nice, to remember what I’ve said; not all of it, just the gist, and if not the gist, maybe an image, a thought, something sticky enough to carry my message a couple of beats past my performance.”

So he developed his concept of...

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