Categories
Boosting Your Confidence Improving Your Presentations Podcast Public Speaking Tips Special Occasion Speeches Wedding Speeches

Episode 4: The A-Ha! Method Podcast

Social Speeches: How to Give the Best Toast of Your Life

Social speeches are often our first – and most important – moments for public speaking. Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, funerals – they all require good speeches and often are what prompts us to improve our speaking in the first place. Join Gabe Zichermann and Dayna Gowan for an exciting episode in which we discuss the opportunities and pitfalls of the social speech, and how to master it on your first go around.

Categories
Improving Your Presentations Professional Speaker Public Speaking Tips Speaking at Conferences Speaking Hygiene

Speaking Hygiene – More than showering and looking good!

You’ve been preparing for this speech or pitch for weeks, maybe months. You’ve followed the lessons of the A-Ha! Method and developed a talk that’s going to get you that promotion, land you that funding, or raise your profile among your peers. The night before your talk you’re probably filled with excitement, nervousness and dread. You practice, practice, practice and go to sleep, ready for whatever comes tomorrow – the big day. 

Professional public speakers know something very critical: your “big day” actually starts the night before. The entire 18-24 hours before your talk, pitch or keynote requires special care and planning, in an effort we describe broadly as “speaking hygiene.”

No, speaking hygiene is not about showering and smelling good (though that’s also important and the subject of another article), but it is about ensuring that your time before the talk is carefully curated to ensure you’ve got the right energy level, the right focus, and the right amount of good stress. In short, you need to think like a rockstar, and put everything into the big moment. Here are some of the most important considerations:

Sleep

Make sure you know when your talk is, and ensure you’ve got enough sleep to maximize your alertness and calm. Time changes can wreak havoc on your body, so these must be factored in as well. If your talk is late in the day or you have an immovable scheduling issue, take a nap several hours beforehand. You’d be surprised how many major performers nap shortly before taking the stage – the key is to make sure your rhythms are in sync and you can do your best.

Eat

Eating is probably a major part of your day, and it can be tempting to just treat the day of your talk as any other day for food. But because too little food can leave you jittery and your stomach growling, and too much can leave you tired and sluggish, it’s crucial to time your meals appropriately. Eat well, but not too much and leave enough time to digest. Don’t eat anything heavy or carby right before, and definitely don’t walk out on stage with stuff stuck in your teeth (e.g. from a really recent bite). But do have something sweet nearby for after your talk: cognitively challenging activities deplete the energy in our brains and glucose is the cure. 

Caffeinate

Caffeine may or may not be part of your daily routine, but you’ll definitely be tempted to slam some back an hour or two before your talk as your energy flags and you worry about being at your best. Just as with food and water, make sure your caffeine intake is optimized for the talk you’re about to give. You want to make sure you don’t go overboard and end up jittery, or go under and laconic. If you want the caffeine to kick in right before your talk, plan to consume it approximately 20 minutes prior. Similarly, if you’re giving a really long talk, you might want to have some right before getting up on stage. Regardless, don’t overdo it. I’ve been there and it’s not cute. 

Investigate

I’m sure you think you know where to find the venue, your specific speaking location, and what time to be there. But don’t assume: it’s happened to me plenty of times where I get lost or the meeting point is non-specific, and I’m rushing to make it to my call time, out of breath and anxious. Whenever you can, do a walkthrough of the precise locations you need to be at and when. If you’re at an away event, you can do this the night before. If you’re somewhere local, do it the day of. Make sure you always leave yourself an additional 30 minutes to account for any hiccups, and don’t plan your flights or drives such that you’ll arrive right before your start time. Even celebrities build in contingencies. You should too. 

Isolate

You should do as little as possible before your talk begins. If your talk is first thing in the morning, you’ll have all day afterwards to socialize, network and the like. But if your talk is later in the day, you should focus on conserving energy for your performance. Wherever possible, don’t make significant intellectually-challenging plans for the time before your talk, and keep your socializing to a minimum. Again, think like a rockstar: the performance is the priority – and the point. Focus everything you’ve got on that one goal.

And therein lies the rub: the sooner you think of yourself as “performing” when you’re up on stage giving a talk, the better. Many speakers get caught in the loop of thinking they are Marketing Director first and speaker second, but on the day of a major and significant talk, embrace your inner diva. Prioritize your hygiene and watch your performance improve.

Categories
Big presentation at work Boosting Your Confidence Improving Your Presentations Public Speaking Practice Virtual Presentations

TWO Public Speaking Practice Clinics this week!

Have an upcoming speech, pitch or presentation?

Come practice it with us!

Each week the Speakers Alliance runs a FREE Public Speaking and Pitching Practice Clinic for people looking to improve their public speaking skills. Anyone who wants to practice a presentation, speech, sales pitch, social occasion speech, etc. is welcome to join and participate! If you do not have a speech or pitch prepared, you can still attend and listen to others practice and ask questions during the Q&A period.

Talks can be 5-6 minutes long. The panel will provide up to 3-5 minutes of feedback after your talk.

This week, we are offering not one but TWO practice sessions for you to join.

Join us on Wednesdays or Thursdays to practice your speeches, presentations and pitches. Speakers Alliance is here to help and support you in your public speaking journey!

Categories
Boosting Your Confidence Public Speaking Nerves Public Speaking Sweats Sweating and Speaking

Episode 3: The A-Ha! Method Podcast

Never Let ’em See You Sweat

Episode 03

Getting sweaty comes with the territory of being a public speaker. But when the deluge starts, how do you keep yourself in a state of flow? On this episode, hosts Gabe Zichermann and Dayna Gowan talk about the tricks, tips and hacks for making yourself less self-conscious and more in charge of your sweatiness. 

Categories
Fear of Public Speaking Improving Your Presentations Public Speaking Nerves Public Speaking Practice Special Occasion Speeches

A Toast to Social Speeches and How to Make Them Great

Weddings, Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties, Holiday Gatherings and Funerals are all situations in which we may find ourselves needing (or wanting) to give a speech. For many people, this is the first time they are prompted to improve their public speaking skills. For others, it is merely a nail-biting event at which we desperately want to succeed. 

Speaking professionals refer to these kinds of talks as “Social Speeches,” or Special Occasion Speeches, to differentiate them from business or political ones. The important distinction is in the name: speeches in this milieu are meant to evoke a particular kind of closeness or connection. Generally if you’re asked to speak at these events, the organizer will be less concerned with your polish and perfection, and more with your delivery of appropriately funny and/or touching anecdotes in a good spirited way. 

Whether this is the one and only time you’ll get up in front of people to speak, or just another step in your journey to become a better communicator, there are several key lessons you should observe when planning and executing a social speech.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Yes, social speeches are somewhat lower stress than professional keynotes. They are usually unpaid, often unsupervised, and – because the organizer is not usually an event professional – they are given minimal attention until the big day. Don’t let this lackadaisical and freewheeling environment fool you: to do a great job at public speaking – regardless of the context – you need to practice your heart out. If you use the approach described in the A-Ha! Method, you can save significant time and may find it easier to memorize and nail those points.

You Don’t Have to Be Funny

Film and TV tend to represent these social speeches as comedic moments. But if you don’t have the halcyon delivery of Owen Wilson or the hipster gravitas of Vince Vaughn, you may not be perfectly suited to hitting those jokes repeatedly. This is not to say that you couldn’t or shouldn’t be funny, but the suggestion is to know your voice and to embrace it. If you’re more serious, be more serious and heartfelt. If you’ve got a light touch, do that. Either way, you’ll be more successful if you embrace your own POV than trying to fit into someone else’s mold.

Shorter is Better

Most social speeches should be kept under 5 minutes. Just think about the typical wedding: if 6 people/groups need to speak, and each takes 10 minutes, you’ll be sitting there for a solid hour listening to family members and friends drone on. Take a cue from what you would enjoy and keep it to a nice tight 2-3 minutes. The shorter timeframe will help you focus and give you clarity. After all, it’s better to say one thing really well than 5 things poorly.

Grab The A-Ha! Moment

In every social speech there is typically one line: an anecdote, observation, expression of love or broader social issue, that is the memorable moment from the speaker. Much as we do when giving a keynote or conference talk using the A-Ha! Method, our process begins by thinking about those moments of connection with the audience, and then building a talk around it. This emotional high-point is the thing that will have the biggest impact, so it needs to be strong. In most social speeches, there is time for one A-Ha! Moment in the middle, and a strong tag at the end that wraps everything up and brings it together.

Strong Openings and Closings

There is a tendency for most speakers to “fill” time as the stage or mic is being transitioned to them. “Hi everyone, how’s it going?” is a great example, or mentioning the previous speaker(s) to then ease into your speech. It makes the speaker feel better, but increases the time from the switch over until your first point of brilliance is expressed. If you can, take a deep breath and launch directly into your speech without any transitional phrases. The same goes for the end: as you create the last line of the talk, make sure to clearly differentiate between the end of your talk and the start of a toast (for example). Toasts or blessings are not endings, and should be treated as separate from your core talk. 

Many professional speakers, when asked to talk about their most important talks, refer to these social speeches. You may spend your life on a keynote stage, traveling around the world – but perhaps the most important memories you’ll make will be much closer to home. So no matter where you are in your journey of improving your communications skills, now’s the right time to lean in. 

Here’s a toast to your upcoming social speeches – may you give them and give them well, and may you regale all your family and friends with your stories and talks at your next special occasion event. Cheers!

Picture credit: Canva.com
Categories
Building Confidence Fear of Public Speaking Improving Your Presentations Podcast Public Speaking Tips

Episode 2: The A-Ha! Method Podcast

Episode 02

Getting and keeping people’s attention is harder than ever as a public speaker. In this episode, hosts Gabe Zichermann and Dayna Gowan explore the techniques that public speakers use to practice and develop their work, and how this helps build confidence. 

Preview:

Categories
Big presentation at work Boosting Your Confidence Fear of Public Speaking Improving Your Presentations Sweating and Speaking Work Presentations

Never Let Them See You Sweat (when speaking)

I come from a long line of sweaty people. 

I remember my grandfather – whose BMI was much lower than mine – carrying a handkerchief in the dead of winter to mop his ever-sweaty brow. My larger frame (thicc by today’s standards) has made me even more sweaty in every aspect of my life. 

In general, I’ve come to terms with it. But when you’re watching your TED talk and see your arms lifted with sweat stains clearly visible through your dress shirt, it feels like too much. Being sweaty at the gym or beach poses minimal professional risk, but – even if people won’t tell you to your face – a super sweaty body or handshake isn’t great when you’re trying to bill $10,000/hour. 

Over my 20 years of paid, professional speaking I’ve tried almost everything to ameliorate this problem, from potions to just giving up and embracing my body’s quirks. Eventually I settled on a few tricks and strategies that have served me well. If you’re not a super-sweater, you might still find these useful – because even Zoom doesn’t hide those pits. And as any sweaty person knows, once you’re conscious of your sweat, it makes it almost impossible to focus on anything else (e.g. the speech you’re supposed to give). 

Antiperspirant

Antiperspirant is the first way most people try to solve this problem. But because adrenaline and increased blood pressure tend to increase sweating, speeches are more likely than most situations to “break through” supermarket brands. I recommend switching to a clinical-strength antiperspirant that you carry with you for talks (live or online). Asking your doctor for a recommendation is a great way to start. Don’t use the stuff regularly, or you’ll develop a tolerance for it (and potential other health complications) – so keep it for the “special” occasions of your speaking. If you don’t wear any antiperspirant on most occasions or days, you’ll find that the selective application of the stuff will help you on the days you need it most. 

Undershirts

Adding layers of undergarments can be a good go-to, but there’s a delicate balance between stopping your sweat from showing and raising your basal body temperature through excessive clothing. If you are an undershirt kind of person, a brand I’ve found to be highly effective is Eji’s. They make a line of “sweat proof” items that have a special liner to prevent your pits – and other parts – from showing. Whatever you do, don’t double up on undershirts or underwear – it will only make you hotter, and definitely won’t help. 

Blazers

The big secret of professional public speakers is the use of a strategic blazer. Men, women and non-binary speakers can find a range of great blazers that look good, project the right image, and help you keep from showing your sweat. The key is to not take the blazer off after your talk until the situation has calmed down, so to speak. This can be especially difficult in venues with inadequate air conditioning, but it’s a low price to pay for protection. And pro tip: black is both slimming and hides sweat the best. 

Handkerchiefs/Sanitizer

While your hands being sweaty during your talk is normal and really no big deal, sweaty hands after a talk – particularly when shaking them with prospective clients or event bookers – can be a major no-no. Take a minute after you’re done pitching or speaking from the stage to go to the restroom, wash your hands, dry them thoroughly, and return to the action in the venue. If that is impossible, a small amount of hand sanitizer (which you probably have at all times nowadays) and a handkerchief in your pocket can give your palms a quick refresh. Of course, you can also always use the pandemic as an excuse to elbow bump instead.

Body Temperature Regulation

There’s a reason that most TV studios are freezing cold. This serves two purposes: to keep the equipment and the hosts from overheating. Sweat ruins clothes, makeup and a 4K high-def close up, and the same will be true for you as a speaker. Now, you may not have control of the venue’s temperature – and particularly if you’re in Europe, the venue will most likely be on the warm side – but there are things you can do. First, dress for the venue prior to your talk. If it’s warm (and you’ll know because you followed my advice to scope it out beforehand), keep your blazer off and/or wear lighter clothes prior to the start of your talk. Don’t shower, work out or otherwise over-exert yourself in the hour before your speech or pitch begins, and do what you can to keep yourself calm. If you’re broadcasting from home – turn down the AC as low as it will go and freeze your room before the talk starts – you can set it back to a normal/cool temperature once you’re finished. And remember to drink lots of water…but not so much that you can’t time your bathroom breaks. 

Excessive sweating can become a clinical condition called Hyperhidrosis. Even if you don’t have this rare but often-debilitating issue, you can suffer from sweating that is “excessive” (a social, not medical construct) during and after important talks. The critical thing to remember, of course, is that this is perfectly normal. You should feel sweaty during and after a talk because you put your heart and soul into it, and that nervous reaction is absolutely natural. However, if you don’t feel confident and comfortable in your body under those circumstances, it will affect your performance. And the most critical thing is to ensure that your talk goes well, that you land your points, and that the audience is changed by what you have to say. Anything that gets in the way of that – and it’s usually something in your head – is detrimental to success. That’s why we teach the importance of practice, confidence and content-centricity in our self-directed online course, The A-Ha! Method

The phrase “Never let them see you sweat” was coined by advertising guru Phil Slott in his 1980s commercials for the antiperspirant Dry Idea. It caught on precisely because of its broader meaning: that you need to project confidence and calm, no matter how you’re feeling inside, if you want to conquer the highest peaks of your profession. Public speaking, pitching and meeting management are types of performance, and good performers invest in managing their sweat to create the right impression. 

The content comes first. But staying high and dry is always a good idea. 

Categories
Boosting Your Confidence Improving Your Presentations Public Speaking Tips Virtual Presentations

Practice Sessions every Wednesday from 6-7pm Pacific Time

Practice, practice, practice! That is the best way to become a better public speaker.

Each week the Speakers Alliance runs a FREE Speech Practice Clinic for people looking to improve their public speaking skills. Gabe and Dayna will discuss issues of importance, answer questions about professional and personal public speaking skills/techniques, and listen to/critique as many short-form talks as possible. The sessions take place Wednesdays at 6pm Pacific Time, and all are welcome. You can attend as many Wednesday sessions as you would like.

Talks can be 5-6 minutes long. The panel will provide up to 3 minutes of feedback. Speeches must be on a professional topic. If you do not have a speech prepared, you can still attend and listen to others practice and ask questions during the Q&A period.

REGISTER HERE FOR A WEDNESDAY SESSION!

Come join us on Wednesdays to practice your speeches, presentations and pitches. We are here to help and support you in your public speaking journey!

Categories
Boosting Your Confidence Improving Your Presentations Public Speaking Tips Virtual Presentations

Zoom Presentations are Hard. Use these Tips to Up Your Game.

Each week The Speakers Alliance runs a free Speech Clinic for people looking to improve their public speaking skills. We discuss issues of importance, answer questions about professional and personal public speaking skills/techniques, and listen to/critique as many short-form talks as possible. The sessions take place Wednesdays at 6pm Pacific Time, and all are welcome.

In our session last week one of the first questions the participants asked was, “Why is it so much harder to do Zoom speeches than in-person?” 

There are several reasons why Zoom talks are objectively harder to give, and each one of these requires some adjustment to your practice in order to overcome.

Nodding Heads

You’ve probably noticed people nodding their heads when listening to someone else speaking, and if you pay attention, you’ll probably notice yourself doing the same thing. In most societies, this kind of passive nodding is a gesture that means “I’m listening to you.” It may also mean “I agree/disagree with you,” but that is much more gender and culture-specific. Over time, as we communicate to others in groups, we observe this behavior and model it. Then we may unconsciously seek the nod as affirmation, and become uncomfortable or disturbed when we don’t get it. If you’ve ever pitched to a completely stone-faced venture capitalist, you’ll know what I mean.

Virtual meetings (e.g. Zoom) make it very difficult to see if people are nodding their heads for a variety of reasons, including the size of video feed, whether the video feed is even on, the changing order of avatars and the need to focus on the camera itself (more on this later). All together, it is nearly impossible to see if people are listening to you, and if you’re empathetic/experienced in live speaking, this can cause you to slip out of flow. 

Being able to overcome your zero-feedback unease is a critical skill that will serve you well both for online and live talks. To do this, I recommend a few techniques to those I train:

  1. Attach a photo of someone you love just above the camera of your device. Focus your attention on that picture, and imagine you’re speaking directly to them as you deliver your lines. If you find it difficult to love, or are going through a big breakup, I suggest placing a picture of an attractive celebrity there, along with the encouragement to “look here”. This will help you both maintain camera focus and reduce your need for affirmation.
  2. Practice your presentations staring at a wall. Get around 6 inches from a wall, and practice giving your whole presentation in that state. Keep your eyes open and in soft focus. Repeating this process will make it easier for you to disconnect your visual reinforcement system from your speaking system. 
  3. For major presentations, I would go so far as to suggest having someone from your family stand behind the camera and listen to your speech. You can look at them, get the nods you need, and stay focused/engaged. Just make sure, as with all suggestions, that you align the external item with the camera so it appears that you’re looking directly at the audience.

Camera Focus

In live speeches, we’re often taught to scan the room so that we’re able to make eye contact with everyone at one time or another. This can also be accomplished in some settings by pacing on the stage (e.g. Apple Keynotes). However, when doing a presentation direct to camera, it is actually detrimental for you to dart your eyes around as you’re speaking, especially if you’re looking at little participant avatars in a strip. 

The best way to “make eye contact” in a Zoom presentation is to stare into the camera. Each participant will thus feel like you are talking directly to them, whereas if your gaze moves, they will feel the exact opposite. 

Doing this well can be hard for several reasons, including the fact that most webcams are actually hidden in the bezel of laptops these days, and only a small green LED indicates where the aperture is located. But also, the lens of a camera is cold and unfeeling, and even experienced and seasoned speakers often have trouble doing this well.

Follow the same advice as given above for nodding, but also consider getting a separate webcam and/or calling greater attention to the one you have. Just having a visual reference to look at that’s bigger than a small dot can do wonders for improving your gaze. Someone I was advising actually put a Gumby doll on their webcam…and it works!

Tech Issues

When you’re giving a talk live at your company or a conference, there are typically audio/visual technicians to help ensure all your pieces are running smoothly. For keynotes and other major presentations, you don’t even typically use your own devices to show slides, but rather give those to the AV team who makes everything runs smoothly. Thanks, AV team!

But when you present from your computer, you are the IT team, and even if you’re very computer savvy, even minor tech issues can negatively affect your performance. 

Follow this guidance to reduce your anxiety about tech issues (and the risk of having problems):

  1. Create a separate user on your device called “presentations”. In this user account, disable all apps that aren’t directly relevant to your presentation efforts. 
  2. 30 minutes before starting, reboot your computer into this “Presentations” user. Launch your key apps and make sure they are completely up to date. 
  3. Set up your lighting, change your clothes, adjust your mic and test your appearance at the beginning of this 30 minute period. If you do this well, you’ll be able to ensure everything is done with 15 minutes to spare – time you can use to practice mindfulness or to run through your presentation again. 
  4. Always logon to the event several minutes before your scheduled start time unless you’re told otherwise. This is your final check on the status of things.

There are plenty of ways to improve your Zoom presentations, and several of those tips, tricks and hacks are in our course, The A-Ha! Method: Public Speaking in a Time of Distraction. It includes hours of breakthrough material you can consume at your own pace, and a world of resources – including live events – that you can join to up your game whether live or online.

Take solace in the fact that presenting direct-to-camera – whether on Zoom or another platform – is hard for even the most experienced speakers. In a subsequent piece, we’ll look at best practices for hybrid (live and online) events, but in the meantime – practice, practice, practice. 

Categories
Comedy and Public Speaking Humorous Speeches Improving Your Presentations Public Speaking Tips

How Sketch Comedy Helped Me Become a Better Speaker

For 2021, I set a goal for myself to take a comedy sketch writing class. I have been taking improv classes for over a year now, but sketch writing would be a new challenge for me. Whenever a funny scenario comes up in real life, I always say, “That could be an SNL sketch!,” but I never knew where to even start with writing it. In January, I signed up for the online Sketch Writing 101 Class at Rise Comedy. The class was only 4 weeks long with one class each Sunday for 2.5 hours, so it felt like an achievable goal. The first class we were told there would be homework, and we would be expected to write sketches on our own time. 

Each class we’d get a sketch assignment, pitch our ideas, and then pick one or two to write in full. At the next class, we would do a read through, give and get feedback and then punch-up (a comedy writer’s term meaning “to improve upon”) the jokes and concept. It was like our very own online writers’ room, and I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would.

During Sketch 101, I wrote a monologue based on my mom, a parody about anti-vaxxers in LA, and a premise-based sketch about a woman who pretends her stuffed animals are real pets on Zoom calls. My portfolio is ready if anyone is interested. 

Sketch 201 

I enjoyed 101 so much that I signed up for Sketch Writing 201, which started on March 28, 2021 and just wrapped up on April 18, 2021. Sketch 201 involved more collaborative writing with a partner, which was fun to write with different classmates. For 201, I co-wrote with my partners a sketch about 43-year-old ladies who love Disney way too much (this sketch was totally based on my friends and me) and a sketch about 3rd graders on strike at school. Again, my sketch portfolio is ready! SNL, call me! 😃

I really enjoyed 201 as well, and I plan to continue on with 301 when it is offered. I have never taken any creative writing classes before this EVER, and wow, have I been missing out! I loved the creative outlet! I know it will get harder as we start to put together an actual sketch show and cast people for parts, but one step at a time! 

Sketch Writing and Public Speaking

As I was going through my sketch classes this year, I couldn’t help but think about how the lessons of sketch comedy apply to public speaking as well. I didn’t take sketch writing to improve my public speaking skills, but I believe some of the key lessons can be helpful to anyone looking to improve their public speaking career, even for non-humorous speeches and presentations. 

Here are five lessons learned from Sketch Writing Class that can be applied to public speaking: 

  1. Don’t judge yourself, just keep writing! 

When you are starting out with a sketch or a topic, just get it all out on the page (aka word vomit or for a more pleasant term — free writing). Don’t let your brain filter you and tell you it’s stupid or not worth writing. Fight against your perfectionist tendencies. Just get it all out on the page, coherent or not, and you can edit later! If you keep it inside your head — like I have done for many sketch and speech ideas — then the world will never see it or hear it. The world needs to hear your message, and we want to hear your message after you have crafted it! The first step though is to get all those ideas down and then you will be able to better organize your ideas and message at that point. 

  1. Say “Yes, and…” to build on ideas. 

Once you have your ideas on paper, whether written or typed, then start building on those ideas instead of shutting them down. Sketch writing uses the principles of “Yes, and…” from improv to create funny scenarios and situations. Another phrase that gets used a lot is “If this is true, then what else is true?” When I was working with my sketch writing partner, I noticed she used the “Yes, and…” principle very well. Whatever idea I had, usually a stupid pun or joke, she would say, “YES! And then we can do this!” Working with her was so easy and fun! I hope to be able to collaborate with her more in the future!

  1. Point of view

Sketch writing and probably most creative writing classes (I assume) teach you to have a clear point of view. What are the characters’ points of view? What are you trying to say in your sketch? What message are you trying to convey here? All these are good questions to ask yourself as you are writing and planning your next presentation. If it is not clear to you what your message and point(s) of view are, then it won’t be clear to your audience. 

  1. Keep it simple! 

Once you have your point of view in mind, then keep it simple!  This goes for your sketch ideas and dialogue. Don’t hide your jokes. Don’t be cute and coy about it.  Make your jokes known and make sure your audience knows they are there. The same thing applies to public speaking with your message. Don’t hide your message or make it difficult for the audience to understand your message. At the same time, keep your message and call to action simple. Instead of a 10 bullet point list of things to do after hearing your speech, keep it short—1-3 points maximum so your audience can remember them and actually use what you taught them. 

  1. Rewrites, Rewrites, Rewrites! Edits, Edits, Edits! 

This is the part of sketch I struggle with the most. Ugh! In sketch class, they had a timeline of the drafts, and by Draft 4, the sketch was usually ready to go to production. That means four rewrites, and I don’t mean just fixing grammatical errors. Draft 1 to Draft 2 could involve totally different characters and premises depending on the feedback you got. Drafts 3 and 4 really focused on joke punch-ups and making sure every line was reviewed and a joke was added if it fit. 

I really struggle with rewrites and editing. Gabe Zichermann has a fantastic editing and iterative process, which he outlines in the A-Ha Method Course, but I can honestly say this is a part of my public speaking game that I need to improve ASAP. I have created a bad habit of “one speech and done” at my current Toastmasters club—meaning I give the speech, get feedback, and never really look at or think about the speech again. While that has helped me to get over my fear of public speaking, it will not help me much as a paid presenter. This is a top priority of mine right now as a speaker, and I am committed to working on this. 

Your speech and presentation may need a lot of edits and time at first. However, it will be absolutely worth all the effort put in when you finally give that amazing presentation, and your audience understands and loves your message.  

These lessons from sketch class have served me well, and I hope they will help you too! 

Overall, sketch writing class has taught me to not take myself too seriously and to be silly just for the sake of being silly. Sometimes the best sketches (Chopping Broccoli and  Spartan Cheerleaders for example) are the most memorable because they are just so silly and fun. I also love the timely political sketches and the sketches that call me out directly (Zillow SNL commercial and Murder Shows SNL song), but the simpler the sketch, the better!

There are so many great lessons to learn from creative writing that can be applied to public speaking. I hope you will take some of these lessons and apply them when preparing your next presentation. And to challenge yourself, I encourage you to try a creative writing class of any sort to generate more ideas for your future speeches. It doesn’t have to be comedy if that’s not your thing, but find a class that works for you and will help you improve your skills. Be creative, and your presentations and your audience will reap the benefits!

Big shout out and thank you to Nick Armstrong and the Rise Comedy Theater for an excellent and inspiring round of sketch writing classes! I am ready and excited for Sketch 301!