Guest Blogs

Guest Blog: A Corporate Speechwriter’s Halloween Tour of Medieval England

A veteran speechwriter and executive communications specialist, Ian Griffin helps CEOs and senior managers develop strategic messaging and content for presentations to audiences worldwide. He is Past-President of the Northern California Chapter of the National Speakers Association and an active member of Toastmasters. A version of this article first appeared in Ian’s blog Professionally Speaking. As a speechwriter for various Silicon Valley companies, I’ve seen both the bad (the tricks) and the good (the treats) of corporate speech development. And while speech writing may seem like a bore of a job, in truth the role of a speechwriter can be as diverse and intriguing as a Medieval Renaissance Fair. For fun on this Halloween day, let’s imagine the world of corporate America set in the time of Medieval England.

Quite ridiculous of course! We’ve come such a long way since the 14th Century. For example, back in the Dark Ages literacy was at an all-time low. Only a minority of the population held a passport and had traveled overseas. The rabble was entertained by jousting, feasting and Mystery Plays. And the King gave speeches no-one listened to.

I can’t possibly imagine what this era of history has in common with our own.

But what if? What if I did imagine?

What costumes could my corporate colleagues wear? And what do the characters in the Canterbury Tales, or Monty Python and the Holy Grail tell us about life today?

Obviously the CEO is the King (or, in rare cases, the Queen). An enlightened monarch or raging despot ruling over the organization. The EVPs and SVPs are the Barons at Court, consumed by intrigue and power plays. Sales managers are the Knights, conquering new territory. The staff are serfs and peasants, laboring in cubicle farms.

What about the speechwriter? Who would the speechwriter dress up as for a Medieval Halloween Ball?

Actually, there’s quite a number which fit the job description.

For starters, how about the speechwriter as the Motley Fool?

The Motley Fool

The fool on the hill Sees the sun going down, And the eyes in his head, See the world spinning ’round. - The Beatles: Fool on the Hill

The Fool in the Medieval Court stands behind King’s throne. While Barons and Knights give measured advice the Fool whispers in the King’s ear “That’s boring. Rubbish! Claptrap! The people won’t buy it. You’ll have to spice it up to keep their attention at the Guild Hall Luncheon tomorrow. Make ‘em laugh my liege. Tell ‘em a story.”

The Fool adds Laughter! Humor! Interest! He has King’s ear, for the moment. The King tolerates him (just) and values his fresh point of view.

The role of the Motley Fool is politically cool. You get to hang out with the powerful and mighty in the land. You might even spend time with the King on the Corporate Jet. But never forget that you’re the only person in the room without 5,000 serfs reporting to you and a quarterly number to make.

Screw up and it’s “Off with his head!”

As Robert Schlesinger said about JFK’s White House, speechwriters counter the “diplomatic blandness” the State Department bureaucracy produced.

Lessons for Speechwriters as Fools

  • Step outside the corporate bureaucracy.
  • Look at issues and topics with fresh eyes.
  • Inject humor, levity, tell stories – audiences love it.
  • Have the courage to speak frankly to the powerful.
  • Don’t show fear when the King growls.

Enough with the Jester. What other role characterizes the job of an Executive Communications Manager (aka Speechwriter) in today’s corporation? How about …

The Ploughman

Businessmen they drink my wine Ploughmen dig my earth - Dylan: All Along The Watchtower

A world away from the gilded Court, Ploughmen till the fields. Tedious but necessary work plays a large part in speechwriting. Doing research. Fact-checking. Ploughing through the background papers which spew from Subject Matter Experts like weeds sprouting on a April morning after a few sweet showers.

Lessons for Speechwriters as Ploughmen

  • It’s boring work, but learn to live with it. With any luck you’ll have the fields tilled by nightfall and the King will invite you to the feast that evening.
  • Have systems in place to take care of the boring stuff. Tracking forms; checklists; everything to speed the plough.
  • Divide up tasks. It’s less overwhelming to focus on today’s furrow than worry about the rest of the forty-acre field.
  • Take breaks, quaff ale, be strong behind the plough.

The Fisherman

Fish supplemented the Medieval diet. Carp was delicacy plucked from the castle moat by Fishermen. It’s always fun to throw a few lines in the water and see what slippery items of information you can catch. Today’s fisherman uses email and voice mail to leave requests for information with subject experts across the kingdom. Bait your hook with the name of the CEO. (“I’m doing some research for a speech John is giving next month and wanted your views…”). Always use the King’s first name. When the fish bite, reel them in.

Lessons for Speechwriters as Fisherman

  • Plan ahead. The fish might not be biting today. You need to get your lines in the water early on in the process.
  • Have patience. But if you don’t get an answer after a few days, fish in another part of the corporate millpond.
  • Don’t forget to bait your email requests with the first name of the executive you are writing for.

The Miller

The Miller is an important member of every Medieval community. Without him, there would be no flour and no loaves of bread. Bread and circuses are what keep the serfs fed and happy. Every Miller is dusty from grinding wheat into flour; separating wheat from chaff.

Subject Matter Experts (SME’s – rhymes with please) will bring sacks and sacks and sacks and sacks of data to your mill. Each direct report likes to provide at least 45 minutes of content for a 15 executive minute speech. If the executive has 10 reports that means you’ll have to sieve through eight hours of content.

It’s the speechwriters job to grind it down, then bake fresh loaves to feed the audience.

Lessons for Speechwriters as Millers

  • This is your biggest single value-add. No-one else wants to stand there while the mill-wheels are a-turning.
  • Edit ruthlessly – throw out 90% of the data the engineers and SME’s send you.
  • Say ‘No’ to requests for more data and facts from Knight’s and Baron’s who pile on the grain as a CYA strategy.
  • Keep the mill-wheels turning. Don’t send un-milled sacks of data to the court. They are paying you to sift and select.

The Alchemist

The Alchemist turns base metal into Gold. Like Rumpelstiltskin’s daughter you’ll take their words and sit in your room all night spinning them into gold. And next morning no-one will know how you did it.

Lessons for Speechwriters as Alchemists

  • Study the book of spells – text-books on speechwriting such as those listed at the end of this parchment.
  • Safeguard the Mystery. Don’t reveal your secrets to the other members of the Court.
  • Practice makes perfect. Alchemy is an art, not a science. Cultivate your Craft.
  • Understand that what you do is magikal to ordinary mortals.

The Monk

Scriptorium: a place for writing – commonly used to refer to a room in medieval European monasteries devoted to the copying of manuscripts by monastic scribes. - Wikipedia

Monks spent hours, days, weeks, months, years in the Scriptorium illustrating manuscripts like the Book of Kells. Everyone admires their artistry but wonders why they spent so much time coloring basic information and making it, actually, harder to comprehend.

That was then. This is now.

The speechwriter today spends hours, weeks, months, years in front of the computer illustrating presentations in PowerPoint. Future archeologists will gaze in wonder at the endless decks of slides. Beautiful, mindless illustrations of…what? Will anyone be able to comprehend these charts in the future? Can members of the audience comprehend them today?

Who cares. Monks may have had a diet of thin gruel, but illustrated manuscripts occupied them on winter evenings.

Lessons for Speechwriters as Monks

  • Learn cutting-edge PowerPoint skills. Take time to study and learn techniques.
  • Develop a good relationship with your graphics team who support you in this.
  • Read two of the Bibles of the modern era: Nancy Duarte’s slide:ology and Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen

The Wandering Minstrel

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me, I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to. Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me, In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you. - Dylan: Mr. Tambourine Man

OK. I saved the best for last. All of the previous roles are aspects of life at Court, inside the hierarchical corporate world, bound by proscribed roles and strict protocols.

The Wandering Minstrel travels the land a free man composing sonnets and madrigals for clients.

Today the speechwriter as consultant wanders freely, far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow. If this sounds like the life for you, there’s important lessons you need to learn.

Lessons for Speechwriters as Minstrel

  • Aim for niche markets. Become an expert in a specific industry. You’ll make good money if your expertize is an inch wide and a mile deep.
  • Work fast, bill clients a flat fee, clean up and move on (just like Joe the Plumber).
  • Stay at the top of your game. You have to be good, darned good.
  • Work by referrals. People love to hire a Minstrel who has performed for the crowned heads of Europe.

Book of Spells

Here are some reference books I keep close by:

Read these great book but also spend time listening to speeches. Here’s a list of 100 great ones.

Guest Blog: Lessons from Bethenny Frankel of The Real Housewives of New York City – How to Build Income


Got Platform? Part 3 of a Three-part Series: IncomeGreenleaf Book Group is a publisher and distributor that specializes in the development of independent authors and the growth of small presses. Our publishing model was designed to support the independent author and to make it possible for writers to retain the rights to their work and still compete with the major publishing houses. Carly Willsie is an Assistant Consultant at Greenleaf where she handles the acquisitions process. In her current role, Carly reviews submissions for market viability and superior content, and works to identify books that will be great additions to Greenleaf’s respected line of titles. She also manages the Big Bad Book Blog and internal social media efforts.

The term “platform” is ubiquitous these days. We see it in the business world, hear it bandied about among authors, experts, and speakers, and we experience it in the social media landscape. This phenomenon isn’t accidental. Platform is a powerful concept that reflects the content, brand, positioning, credibility, audience, and intellectual property you develop. Your platform lives at the intersection of ideas, influence, and income—and your book’s success depends on it.

In this three-part series, we’ll share valuable information and resources to help you create, maintain and boost your platform. To learn more about Greenleaf Book Group’s platform development program,


Platform, Part 3: Income

Income. It’s the last piece in the platform development puzzle and the final brick on your path to success. It’s an absolutely essential function of your business and brand. It’s where your audience shows you the money, and it’s where all your idea-generating and influence-building pays off—literally.

Income is the ultimate product of great ideas, great content, and strong influence in the form of interaction and conversation among your audience. Income means monetizing your ideas and converting customers into closed leads. Great ideas combined with a powerful interaction strategy can lead to great business if handled correctly, as Bethenny Frankel of The Real Housewives of New York City fame has showed us over the past few years.

We usually think of The Real Housewives cast members as, well, housewives. And with a few exceptions, that’s mostly what they are—women who have the financial luxury to spend most of their days throwing catered dinner parties and gossiping with pricey cocktails in hand. Not many reality TV stars have made the leap from “personality” to true entrepreneur, but Frankel was able to use the show to build and promote her now-infamous Skinnygirl brand.

When Frankel first appeared on the show, she was the relatively “broke” housewife, a natural foods chef living in a 700 square-foot closet of an apartment and struggling to make rent. But she had an idea—a low-calorie margarita—and she used the exposure she received from the show to cultivate her influence and create a strong brand. Two years later, and she’s sold her Skinnygirl cocktail line to Beam Global for a price rumored to be around $120 million—an unheard-of number in the spirits marketplace for a single celebrity. Even though reality TV is often seen as a joke, Frankel is dead serious in her income-building. And now uber-rich.

You, too, can make income happen when you’ve built enough influence and interaction around your content and found your audience’s pain points, or points of interest. Check out our suggestions below to seamlessly and successfully make income a part of your platform-building experience.

1.  Diversify your offerings.  You’re going to want a diversified set of product offerings, or assets, to generate multiple streams of income—content, products, services, and programs. You can customize these for audience segments and areas of expertise. Below are a few specific examples of great income-generators:   

  • Speaking and presenting—keynotes, breakouts, or workshops
  • Book sales
  • Training sessions and facilitation
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Custom downloads from your website

Don’t be a one-hit wonder when it comes to generating salable content. Be dynamic. Not only does Frankel continue to market and support her claim to fame—her Skinnygirl margarita—she also offers health DVDs, several bestselling books, online personal training, shapewear, and dieting and cleansing products. All of this is, of course, in addition to her countless paid media and event appearances.

2Keep an open mind. A successful income strategy also means building partnerships and welcoming the right sponsorships, spokesperson opportunities, affiliate marketing, and anything else you can think of. Don’t be afraid to dive into new territory.

When Frankel was first approached by Bravo to join The Real Housewives cast, she refused for two months. However, she considered the influence-building potential of the show, and cites business exposure as the only reason she finally said yes, according to the Hollywood Reporter . Keeping an open mind not only allowed Frankel to launch her Skinnygirl line; it also earned her a spin-off show, Bethenny Ever After, which garners over a million viewers per episode.

3.  Facilitate the process. Make sure that your content is easily found and easily bought. Invest in a user-friendly and well-designed website to help facilitate and automate ecommerce. Don’t settle for a second-rate one, either—your online presence is going to be where your audience turns to learn about you, buy from you, and stay engaged with you.

 Remember that income is ultimately about selling more of less. It’s about the long tail. Sometimes it’s best to start by giving away valuable content. You’ll build trust and get people engaged. They’ll want more.

4. Repurpose. Ideas are valuable. Keep a list of your ideas for income-generating content and revisit it often. Just because someone might not be willing to pay for your product now doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to sell it. As your influence grows, you’ll be able to leverage more of your ideas into income-making opportunities.

A list is also a good idea because it will help you figure out ways to divide and repurpose your content assets. For example, you could turn your book or blog into a workbook or webinar series. Keep in mind that services and programs like speaking, training, and coaching have a higher perceived value and require higher pricing. You should focus on breaking into these worlds if you haven’t already.

Frankel was able to negotiate the astronomical purchase price of Skinnygirl because of her unique idea and powerful influence. Still, it took some time and some great opportunities for her to get there. The lesson for anyone who aspires to grow is that building a platform happens one “I” at a time—with ideas, interaction, and income. The more time you spend on each component, the better your platform will be and the stronger your income-generating opportunity.

The other idea to keep in mind is that in the end, you will be as successful as the quality of your platform. And the quality of your platform will determine your opportunities and income over time. As you focus on building your platform, think about Gary Vaynerchuk, Suze Orman, Bethenny Frankel, and other creative entrepreneurs that have transformed great ideas into influence and income. Each has mastered the three “I’s” and this mastery has resulted in a powerful platform.

For more information on the ins and outs of what a platform is and how to get started on developing one, check out parts 1 and 2 of Greenleaf’s platform development series, in which we discuss the necessities of great ideas and strategic influence. Want help expanding your influence and developing your expertise? Greenleaf offers a broad range of platform development services, including integrated brand strategy; keynote and presentation design; print and online product development; speaker reel and video production; social media strategy; and more. For a full list of what Greenleaf can do for you, visit

Guest Blog: Lessons from Suze Orman - How to Influence and Connect

Got Platform? Part 2 of a Three-part Series: Influence Greenleaf Book Group is a publisher and distributor that specializes in the development of independent authors and the growth of small presses. Our publishing model was designed to support the independent author and to make it possible for writers to retain the rights to their work and still compete with the major publishing houses. Carly Willsie is an Assistant Consultant at Greenleaf where she handles the acquisitions process. In her current role, Carly reviews submissions for market viability and superior content, and works to identify books that will be great additions to Greenleaf’s respected line of titles. She also manages the Big Bad Book Blog and internal social media efforts.

The term “platform” is ubiquitous these days. We see it in the business world, hear it bandied about among authors, experts, and speakers, and we experience it in the social media landscape. This phenomenon isn’t accidental. Platform is a powerful concept that reflects the content, brand, positioning, credibility, audience, and intellectual property you develop. Your platform lives at the intersection of ideas, influence, and income—and your book’s success depends on it.

In this three-part series, we’ll share valuable information and resources to help you create, maintain and boost your platform. To learn more about Greenleaf Book Group’s platform development program, visit

Platform Part 2, Influence

Money is personal. Spilling your economic guts to anyone other than your spouse, partner, or family members is unheard of to most people. But not to Suze Orman. Orman, a financial advisor-turned-television host and bestselling author, listens to personal financial pain on a daily basis and gives empowering solutions for people in tough situations. It’s especially helpful in today’s economic climate. Her advice is often abrasive. She challenges her fans to make immediate proactive changes in their financial lives. And as creatures of habit, it’s never easy for us to make changes like these.

With her loud, in-your-face approach and established expertise, Orman’s reach extends to millions of people. They love her, and her Twitter community alone shows it, topping 1,100,000 followers. Her TV program, The Suze Orman Show, has been on the air for ten years and continues to be one of the most highly rated programs on CNBC. She’s also penned nine consecutive bestsellers and hosted the most successful fundraiser in the history of PBS. That’s powerful.

Everyone wants Suze’s advice. And when Suze talks, not only do people listen—they share what they’ve heard with others. She gets people talking, which helps drive word of mouth. It’s hard not to admire Suze’s ability to wield widespread influence and connect. And her path to platform success is worthy of study. It didn’t happen overnight. But she tapped into a deep need (personal financial advice) and transformed that into a brand—one that allows her to continue to capture people’s attention.


 If ideas are your foundation when it comes to building a successful platform,  influence is your most important tool. Without meaningful influence, great ideas can die. So you want to be sure to find your audience, cultivate your relationships through offline and online channels, and build a following.

Remember, influence is about capturing people’s imagination and emotion, their hearts and minds, and engaging them to share your ideas. It’s essential for your platform. Influence also allows you to amplify your message as it moves from person to person to group to larger networks. Here are four driving points behind building influence:

1. Provide great content.

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: You need to begin with a solid content strategy. You need content designed around a problem or pain point for your target audience, content that exists in different formats to help different types of learners. Orman’s audience needs financial advice. She provides it across several media: her website, TV, radio, social media. And Orman not only makes sure that her financial recommendations are top-notch, she also makes them in a way that’s unique and personable.

When you create consistently great content in different formats, you provide value and benefit to your audience and win mindshare. You get them talking. Eureka! That’s influence.

You can read about how to get started on creating content that people care about in part 1 of Greenleaf’s platform development series.

2. Help your audience share your content, online and offline.

People want to share. Sharing information is not only entertaining, it’s educational and gratifying, too. Use our natural tendency to share—your job is to connect with people and give them tools to share your message.

Your content should be designed to resonate and get people sharing. If it’s not worth their time, they won’t share it. And it’s not worth your time to create. So make it shareable, fun, different, or controversial.

It’s essential to have a diversified web presence. A clean, professional, well-designed, and easily navigated website experience is a necessity—but don’t stop there. Start blogging regularly and reach out to other bloggers in your arena. Consider doing a blog swap to build your readers. Maintain your social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, and make an effort to regularly post relevant information and interact with your followers. Making a webinar, podcast, or video series is a great way to share your content—and those media are usually the most viral.

According to a HubSpot survey, U.S. Internet users spend three times as many minutes on blogs and social networks than on email. Forty-six percent of people read blogs more than once a day. Is your content part of their conversation? Track your online influence by comments received, feedback given, number of likes, and the frequency of sharing among your readers, fans, and followers.

Face-to-face sharing is also a part of your influence. Offline, conversations happen following a presentation you give or an appearance you make. Always give them a (branded!) handout with your most valuable content—something that people will leave on their desks and discuss with their coworkers.

3. Do some sharing yourself.

Linking to videos and sharing links to notable content, even if it’s not your own, is low-hanging fruit you can do every day to create interaction and build up your influence. Show your followers that you care enough about them to share content that others create—use your influence for more than just a personal advertising tool, and it will, ironically, become one. Note that your brand and image alignment matter. So if you’re a health expert, make sure you look like the embodiment of health and that you’re sharing information about well-being.

Your fans will want to know a little about you, too. In return to her fans, who share very private information with her on a daily basis, Orman makes sure that she puts herself out there as well. On Suze’s “About Me” page of her website, viewers find a video—not the usual paragraph upon paragraph of description. The video not only gives viewers a sense of Suze’s expertise—it gives them a sense of her personality. She also has a highlighted section of her website devoted to “scrapbooks.” You’ll find her fans calling her “girlfriend” left and right.

Sharing notable content from others—in addition to the content you create on your own—will help you build influence and trust. You’re adding value, including people in your conversation, and building your credibility. You’re promoting great content. And you’re coming from a place of contribution. Your fans know that they can trust you to give them valuable information, and they’ll tell other people to use you as a resource.

4. Quantify.

Regularly quantify where you are in terms of influence. Analyze the number of online connections and offline contacts you have. It’s a good rule of thumb to measure where you are monthly or quarterly. Track the number of fans, followers, and page hits you have. This is especially important if you’re spending any money on ad campaigns. Make sure your ad spend is converting into influence.

A quick tool for measuring your influence is Klout Score. [] Klout Score gives you a ranking based on a few different components, including the number of people who see your social media posts; the number of people who re-share your posts; and the relative influence of other people in your network. Our bet? Orman has a great Klout Score.

As you move forward to build influence, focus on setting goals and growing your networks exponentially. Your platform grows with each “like” and each mention you receive. Facilitate the process by providing great content, interacting with your audience, sharing relevant links, and measuring your status. Pay attention to those—like Vaynerchuk, Orman, and others—who have mastered the art of influence. And most importantly: have fun with your influence-building. What’s more exciting than sharing your ideas and making new friends?

Check in with us next week for part 3 of this series, where we’ll uncover how you can use the combination of great ideas and high influence to generate income.

Interested in getting a read on where you are in the development of your platform? Find out how you rank at It’s a free tool we’ve created to help you measure your current status by giving you a personal expert score. One you finish the test, we’ll give you additional strategies to take you to the next level. Give the test a try, and feel free to get back to us with any feedback!

Part 1 of a Three-part Series: Got Platform?

Guest Blog Part 1 of a Three-part Series:Greenleaf Book Group is a publisher and distributor that specializes in the development of independent authors and the growth of small presses. Our publishing model was designed to support the independent author and to make it possible for writers to retain the rights to their work and still compete with the major publishing houses. Carly Willsie is an Assistant Consultant at Greenleaf where she handles the acquisitions process. In her current role, Carly reviews submissions for market viability and superior content, and works to identify books that will be great additions to Greenleaf’s respected line of titles. She also manages the Big Bad Book Blog and internal social media efforts.

The term “platform” is ubiquitous these days. We see it in the business world, hear it bandied about among authors, experts, and speakers, and experience it in the social media landscape. This phenomenon isn’t accidental. Platform is a powerful concept that reflects the content, brand, positioning, credibility, audience, and intellectual property you develop. Your platform lives at the intersection of ideas, influence, and income—and your book’s success depends on it.

In this three-part series, we’ll share valuable information and resources to help you create, maintain, and boost your platform. To learn more about Greenleaf Book Group’s platform development program, visit

Platform, Part 1: Ideas

Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk has appeared on everything from Ellen and CNN to NPR. He’s written two New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers. And he has amassed almost one million Twitter followers. One million! He grew his family wine business from $3 million in annual revenue to more than $45 million in eight short years. At age thirty-five, Vaynerchuk operates a slew of businesses and even boasts a gaggle of fans that refer to themselves as “Vayniacks.” In short, he’s a walking billboard for what a concentrated platform can do for you.

Becoming a mega-expert like Vaynerchuk sounds incredibly appealing and, for those just getting started, equally daunting. So let’s break down where you should begin. A strong platform starts with strong ideas. Ideas—the content you create—are your foundation; they’re a major reason people will talk about you. Ideas are a form of currency that translates into value for your audience, and the beauty is that that value can translate into money for you.

Building valuable content that an audience will care about enough to use, share with others and, ideally, purchase, depends on four components: (1) finding your passion; (2) knowing your audience; (3) choosing an effective content strategy; and (4) creating solid, new content on a regular basis. Let’s take a look at these to help kick-start your content conquest.

1.  Find your passion. It‘s essential that you care about your topic. If you’re not engaged, your audience certainly won’t be. So choose a meaningful topic that keeps you curious, one you spend a lot of time thinking, writing, and talking about. Ideally, you’ll be passionate in an area where you’re already credentialed. If you’re a fashion designer or marketer who loves fashion, there’s a golden opportunity to create content on the subject of fashion. If you’re a professional magician who wants to create a platform in the world of deep sea diving, you’ll have to work a lot harder than the Jacques Cousteau types who are already in the water. Take your passion and create content around it. Keep it simple, fun, and engaging, and always look for ways to make it remarkable.

2.  Know your audience. The content you create must match your audience’s needs and interests. Be sure to conduct a thorough audience analysis before you begin developing content and interacting. Create demographic and psychographic profiles. You need to know the answers to these questions:  

  • Who are they?
  • What do they do
  • What do they struggle with?
  • What do they care about?
  • Who else do they admire?

Knowing what your competitors bring to the table is essential, too. Remember, you must differentiate yourself, and you should focus on filling a hole in the field.

For example, Vaynerchuk had the foresight to realize that e-commerce would grow exponentially, and he started in 1997. He also quickly identified an empty spot in the wine-tasting world—non-fluffy, honest feedback. He started     making video wine reviews and spoke to his audience on their level, using terms like “sniffy sniff” and “oakmonster.” His reviews were soon reaching over 100,000 viewers per day. He filled a need in the lofty world of wine collecting with excellent, informed content in a guy-next-door voice.

3.  Decide on a content strategy. With your passion and audience in your pocket, now you need to decide how you will present your content. Will you do it through blogging, infographics, videos, podcasts, presentations, webinars, articles, a book, or something else entirely? A mix of these is likely the most effective way to present your content, and as you craft that mix it’s important to track what your audience responds to. How do they learn best? And what works especially well for your content? You can also look at your competitors—what content strategies are they using effectively?

You also want to figure out your short- and long-term goals and pin down who will create your content. Do you want a blog with one weekly post, or do you want multiple posts per week? What about videos? Are you planning to create your own content? Or do you have a reliable assistant or support team that is in tune with your message and can do much of the heavy lifting for you? Your answer to these questions might depend on whether you’re creating a platform for yourself or your business (or whether your “self” is your business). If you are developing your personal platform, it’s important that fans feel like they’re interacting with the real you—not your personal assistant. As literary agent Rachelle Gardner writes on her blog, “It’s harder than ever to attract people to books. The way to do it is increasingly through personal connection, and that means YOU, the author, making connections with your readers.”

Vaynerchuk took the time each week to record himself on camera for his (recently-retired) video blog, “The Daily Grape.” He was being himself for his fans. And if you look at his Twitter feed, it’s a stream of responses to his followers. No wonder people feel connected to him—they are.

4.  Create solid, new content on a regular basis. Make a schedule for yourself and stick to it. An editorial calendar is not just for newspaper editors. It helps keeps you focused and productive, and can help you envision and manage your workload. The sooner you get started, the better. The Content Marketing Institute provides a guide to starting an editorial calendar, pointing out that the calendar not only keeps you on track—it helps you think of ways to repurpose your content as well.  Finally, be sure to keep up with new developments in your field. Once you’re perceived as an expert, you need to remain one. The members of your audience need to know they can depend on you, first and foremost, for new information and ideas. Make it happen through consistently great content.

When passion and good ideas connect with an audience need through a well-thought-out content strategy, great things can happen. Think of Vaynerchuk. He took what he knew and loved—wine—and spoke to his audience in a unique and casual way, through a medium they responded to—vlogging. 

Vaynerchuk’s success all started with his content, and yours will too. The more content you create over time, the more your ideas become the fuel that powers your brand platform.

Check in with us next week for part 2 of this series, in which we’ll take a look at influence—that is, how to spread your ideas through interaction with your audience.

Interested in getting a read on where you are in the development of your platform? Find out how you rank at It’s a free tool we’ve created to help you measure your current status by giving you a personal expert score. One you finish the test, we’ll give you additional strategies to take you to the next level. Give the test a try, and feel free to get back to us with any feedback!

Wednesday4Women Blog Carnival: “Top Presentation Strategies for Women”

I recently came across an excellent article at that explores gender roles in public speaking. To briefly summarize, the author identifies several differences in the way men and women give presentations and how both genders can learn from each other to improve their speaking skills. Although I think there is plenty to learn from the opposite gender, it is documented that women learn better in single-sex groups. That’s one reason why I started my Wednesday4Women blog series, to provide insights, resources and advice from women, about women, for women. The success of this concept has amazed even me.

For this blog carnival, I asked several experts to share their views on “Top Presentations Strategies for Women.” After an overwhelming number of replies, I’ve narrowed it down to the most relevant pieces of advice. The contributors offer spot-on suggestions and include such topics as “How to Ask for What You Want with Confidence” to “Tips for Aspiring Women Speakers” to “5 Presentation Tips to Wow Your Audience.” You’ll also find information from websites listed on Forbes’ “Top 100 Websites for Women.”

I highly recommend you spend time reading these golden nuggets of wisdom and learning more about each of our talented contributors. They have a lot of valuable information to share. Enjoy!


Savvy Speaks: Top Presentation Strategies for Women Savvy Sisters - Savvy B2B Marketing Great advice to help women play to their natural communication skills.

Top Presentation Strategies for Women Emily Jasper – From the Gen Y Perspective A handful of tips women may use to help improve their presentation skills.

5 Top Tips for Aspiring Women Speakers Susan Macauley – Amazing Women Rock/Unleash Amazing You Advice for you to feel more comfortable, confident and in control when you speak. (Can also be found here.)

How To Ask For What You Want With Confidence Brenda Solano – Hybrid Mom Have you noticed how you can speak with complete authority at home, but when it comes to business you sometimes lose your voice?

5 Presentation Tips to Wow Your Audience Christie Cruz – Career Advisor for Global Young Professionals Strategies that can help you overcome your presentation fears and “wow” your audience.

Top Presentation Strategies for Women Mark Grimm - Story-of-the-Day Blog Important presentation principles to help you bring home your message in a clear, compelling way.

Be Original Like Temple Grandin Deborah Taylor-French - Dog Leader Mysteries Temple Grandin, one of Time Magazine’s “100 most influential people,” exemplifies original communication.

Top Presentation Strategies for Women Joanne O. McGhee – Sage ELT, LLC Presenting in front of a group whether, it is small or large can be both exhilarating and intimidating.

Top Presentation Strategies Katherine Winkelman – Gioia Company, LLC Presentation tips from the perspective of a small business owner.

Top Presentation Strategies Nancy Longo - Longo Job Explorer Important communications advice from an award winning journalist.

Speaking Engagement? Wear this! Margaret Lawrence - Naracamicie One of our favorite San Francisco stores enlightens us on what to wear for our next presentation.


Presentation Strategies for Women Lisa Braithwaite – Speak Schmeak Why do we single out women as needing special advice?

Where is your Mommy Voice? David Rosman – InkandVoice Communication Unfortunately, many women seem to lose their "Mommy Voice" when giving a presentation.

Cracking the Presentation Glass Ceiling Kathy Reifferstein - And...Now Presenting! Women must overcome some unique challenges to maximize their impact as speakers.

This blog carnival is a special edition of my Wednesday4Women blog series, where I feature stories, resources and information to help women gain greater influence, power, and confidence in their professional and personal life. Please enjoy these weekly Wednesday blogs and forward them to the powerful women in your life. I appreciate your insightful comments and suggestions for future blog carnivals. A special thanks to all our bloggers and to you, our readers.

Facilitation, Inspiration, Aspiration

The National Speakers Association of Northern California November Meeting

Last Saturday NSA/NC held an outstanding Chapter meeting. A full day of invaluable information for speakers and executive communications professionals. Over 120 members and guests attended the event sponsored by the Pro-Track program, now enrolling for January 2011.

Facilitation: The Secret Weapon of Professional Speakers, with Kristin Arnold

NSA National President Kristin Arnold started the day with a compelling presentation on facilitation. This is her area of expertise, since she has 20+ years experience and is the author of Facilitation Skills.

She distinguished facilitation (high process, low content) from keynoting (high content, low process). Her recommendations included:

  • Never do for the team what they can do for themselves
  • Type up meeting minutes as a value-add
  • Guide the meeting along the path from generating to organizing ideas, deciding on responsibilities and acting on them
  • Create an action plan, listing the who, what and when that will make things happen
  • If you ask for someone to volunteer for an action, be silent until you get a response.

The Power to Inspire: The Non-Verbal’s of Dramatic Presentations, with Michael Grinder

Michael presented on both side of lunch for a total of 90 minutes of instruction. He’s the master of non-verbal communication. His claim is that an average communicator informs; a good communicator persuades and a great communicator inspires. Michael is clearly a great communicator.

Michael showed, in fine-grain detail, how a speaker’s posture, voice, gesture and breath combine in the three phases of a conversation: speaking, listening and pausing. Understanding when and how to vary these tools allows a presenter to move between credibility and approachability. Not knowing undermines your message. For example, asking “Any questions?” in a monotone, with chin locked and palms facing downwards, creates a much less favorable audience reaction than asking the same question in a modulated voice, nodding your head and holding your palms up. No-one likes to interact with a dictator.

I loved his demonstration on the podium which showed how speakers should be aware that “Locations have memories”. If you have bad news to deliver as part of your talk, move, literally, to a different part of the stage. Then avoid that place for the rest of your talk.

I purchased Michael’s package The Elusive Obvious which includes DVDs, flash cards and his book The Science of Non-Verbal Communication. His material lists 21 non-verbal secrets found at the heart of all communications, no matter how differently they might appear on the surface.

The content takes speakers through the four stages of professional development:

  • Content: the verbal level or the “what”
  • Process: the non-verbal or the “how”
  • Perception: timing or the “when”
  • Receptivity: permission or the “if”

The first two levels are part of the Science of communication, where the speaker is searching for the words to speak and deciding how to deliver them. The Art of communication assumes you know the tools of the Science and need to be conscious of when to deploy them appropriately. The highest level, Receptivity, is when speakers harvest the power of effective communication in terms of reputation, name recognition and high esteem.

Speaking to the Big Dogs: Getting Things Done with Executives, with Rick Gilbert

Past NSA/NC President Rick Gilbert closed the day by sharing his insights around speaking in the Board room. Rick’s framework for planning a C-Suite presentation is based on the advice from interviews with 23 Silicon Valley executives. They said that when they hear from a mid-level manager they expect that person to:

  • Have done extensive homework before the meeting
  • To get to the point immediately
  • Use data over stories
  • Make the numbers bullet proof
  • Reduce PowerPoint slides
  • Be prepared to have their time cut and topic changed without notice
  • Know how to deal with conflict among a group of executive
  • Know how to present bad news
  • Focus on strategy over style.

Rick’s framework for a Board room presentation lists some key points an aspiring middle-manager should use as a checklist prior to presenting:

  • Set the context for the meeting, confirming the topic and the time available
  • Cover the bottom-line “ask” for the discussion up front
  • Give solid reasons and list the value and benefits of the proposal
  • Present evidence (facts and data) for no more than two key points
  • Summarize these key points
  • Repeat the bottom line
  • Repeat the reason
  • Close with action steps.

That’s it – get in, and get out. Save squishy interactions for ordinary mortals, like, umm … your family.

Also, understand that you are not in charge and that you are in a time constrained environment. Presentations to senior management require the ability to improvise. You are dealing with people who control others for a living.

As someone once said, either have a plan, or be part of someone else’s plan. ----- This blog post was composed by Ian Griffin, a freelance speech writer and active member of both the National Speakers Association (NSA) and Toastmasters. He was the 2008-09 President of the Northern California Chapter of the NSA. Read more of his work by clicking here:

A GBP (Guest Blog Post) about Acronyms

Industries have acronyms.  Corporations have even more.  It’s engrained in their cultures. But do you know all the acronyms at your company?  Or do you sometimes pretend you do because you don’t want to appear stupid?

If you’re a manager, what messages are you sending to your reports if you don’t speak up when you don’t understand something you think you’re supposed to?

The unwritten rule becomes don’t ask questions which seem simplistic.  Of course, it’s the simplistic which often ends up being complicated.

The odds are if you don’t know what an acronym means, someone else doesn’t either.  Or worse, people will have different interpretations or different meanings of the same acronym.

This leads to miscommunication, missed deadlines and general frustration.

As a manager or leader, if you have (or fake) the confidence to ask what terms mean, you are helping others with understanding.

When we speak up when not familiar with something we think everyone knows:

  • We find out what it means
  • We provide common ground and dialogue on specific terms
  • We are creating an environment where its okay to speak up

 Many times it’s the basics that are confusing, resulting in wasted time.  Asking questions can help change that situation.

What terms don't you know that you think you should?    Let us know at

Want to learn how to avoid the traps and pitfalls many managers fall into?

Whether this is something you or someone you know needs to do, Fulcrum Point Partners has the managerial tools to help you make the shift from subjectivity to objectivity to decrease your stress and conflict and increase your productivity!

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Howard Miller Speaker, Business Coach, Facilitator and Instructor 415-642-0843

Public Speaking and The Holidays

The Holidays are a time to celebrate the many joys of the season and to enjoy the company of those you cherish. In addition to my wonderful family, relatives and friends, I am grateful for my colleagues and clients and the many new connections that I’ve made this year through my blog.


So I’d like to say thank you to YOU, our wonderful readers, and give you the gift of our first “blog carnival.”  Below you will find thirteen blog posts by an outstanding group of public speakers. They have shared their thoughts, tips and musings on the theme of Public Speaking and The Holidays.


I offer my sincere thanks to our contributors for their participation and I look forward to making this blog carnival a continuing feature for you all to enjoy.


Don’t Toast The Holidays: How Presenters Can Give A Toast Without Toasting A Relationship

Jim Anderson – The Accidental Communicator

“A poorly given toast can burn a relationship.”


How to Mix and Mingle Your Way through the Dreaded Holiday Party

Lisa Braithwaite – Speak Schmeak

Learn how to manage your anxiety, let go of your fear, and genuinely enjoy yourself at Holiday parties.


Tis the Season for Public Speaking

Terry Gault – Speak Fearlessly

5 simple guidelines for communicating at a Holiday gathering.


3 Gifts of Feedback

John Goalby – World Champion Evaluator

Three types of feedback gifts that one can give to experienced speakers.


Speaking Of…The Holiday Season

Marilyn E. JessSpeaking Of…

Suggestions on how to listen more and speak less to improve one’s public speaking skills this Holiday Season.


How to Schmooze, Mingle, and Make Small Talk at Your Holiday Party

Lisa B. Marshall – The Art of Speaking Business

10 tips towards mastering the art of mingling at your office party.


How to Propose a Toast

Olivia Mitchell – Speaking about Presenting

7 ways to give the gift of public speaking this Holiday Season.


Public Speaking and the Holidays

Nick Morgan – Nick Morgan’s blog

An historical look at public speaking during festive occasions.


A Toast to the Season

Kathy Reiffensein – Professionally Speaking…

A few tips to keep in mind as you toast the Season.


All We Want for Christmas – A Presentation Wish List for 2009

Scott Schwertly – ethos3

Top 10 most wanted public speaking items.


 Giving Thanks from the Podium

Stephanie Scotti – Speaker Notes

Reflect on this past year’s gifts and blessings with a video of the 2009 Voice of Democracy winner.


A Gift for Speakers and Would-be Speakers

Martin Shovel – Creativity Works

“A medley of tips on how to prepare – and write – a speech or presentation that will make an audience sit up and listen.”


A Holiday Speech for the Ages

Cynthia Sparks – Starks Communications

A reflection on Christmas sermons from Cynthia’s favorite priests.


Public Speaking for the Holidays: Beware

George Torok – Executive Speech Coach

Unplanned speeches during the Holidays can be dangerous!

On the Road: My Experience Teaching PowerPoint

On the Road: My Experience Teaching PowerPoint


This is a guest post from Kirk Mossing, PowerPoint™ Consultant and Trainer.


What do Audiences REALLY Think About PowerPoint?


Travelling across the nation and working with clients like Google and Stanford University, I routinely ask my students one key question: “As an audience member, what do you hate most about PowerPoint?” And 100% of the time I hear: “There are too many words on a slide.” Followed up with: “I can’t read it.”


Therefore, when you’re a presenter, you first need to determine the purpose of your PowerPoint and build your slides around that. Know your audience. For a live audience, the purpose is to support the speaker and the presentation, and to do that you only need to develop main points. However, if you are sending it to people as a handout that they can peruse on their own, then you can load up on the details.


For both of these options I recommend that you:

A.     Create two separate presentations OR

B.     Put the bulk of your data in speaker notes AND

C.    Use hyperlinks to link to other documents or the web.


In either case, one best practice to use is this: Write all the content in the speaker notes first and then take out the key words or phrases and move them to the slide. (Select text and Control drag to copy the text and drop it into a slide.)


What Makes a Slide Visually Appealing?

Memorize and live your PowerPoint life by these four points:


1.     Contrast (imagine someone wearing black pearls against a black dress): Contrast includes using color, font size, bold, italic, etc. effectively.

2.     Consistency (would you wear old tennis shoes with a suit or evening gown?): Consistency is why there is a template, why you keep the same look and feel throughout, why you stay away from clip art and use photographs and why you strive for optimal structure and organization.

3.     Alignment (imagine a crooked picture on the wall…how off does it have to be to be annoying?): This is all about how you Draw/Align or Distribute text and images. You can use the ruler, guides, etc. to help you. To copy something and keep the alignment, use Control SHIFT drag. If you just want to move it, hold down the shift key while dragging. If you want to resize a picture proportionately, hold down the shift key and resize.

4.     Proximity (grouping like things together…imagine a restaurant menu with one line spacing and font size): The proximity of tables, boxes, white space, etc. help separate content and make it easier to absorb and retain information.


2007 vs. 2003 Tips

Many people are not using Office 2007 yet. In order for those in versions 97 to 03 to work with a document created in 07, you should save your presentation in compatibility mode. To do so, click Save As/Save as type: PowerPoint 97-2003 Presentation. Note: you will lose some 07 functionality.


Another option is to download a converter to see and work with .pptx (07) files without having 07. You can do so here.


When working in different versions of PowerPoint, you will find that you are unable to copy slides from one presentation to another if you have one open in 03 and the other in 07. The trick to this is to open both in 07 or both in 03 and then move the slides.


Finally, remember that 07 is based upon ribbons instead of drop down menus, which are the equivalent of a toolbar in an earlier version. However, many options can be found by right clicking instead of hunting around on the ribbons.


Final Trick for the Road

Control Shift C and V = Copies and pastes formatting then use F4 to repeat


My best suggestion for learning new tricks is to practice one at a time, over and over, until you can do it without thinking about it.

By following these suggestions and mastering the tricks, you, too, can be a PowerPoint master and ‘wow’ your audiences every time.


Feel free to contact me! You can also be on my Tips and Tricks email list if you like.

Kirk Mossing

Power PowerPoint


Three quick tips for improving your connection with your audience

Nick Morgan, author of Trust Me: Four Steps to Authenticity and Charisma, is one of the nation's top communication coaches. He graciously contributed the following post. Please take a moment to explore Nick's blog and his wonderful insights contained within. 



Connection with an audience is a goal all speakers want to achieve, but it can be elusive.  How can you ensure that your connection with your audience is quick and durable?  By remembering that a connected communication is reciprocal, consistent, and social.


Be Reciprocal

People feel obligated to listen if you’ve listened to them.  Some self-absorbed people never reciprocate, but most of us do because the golden rule is deeply baked into our psyches.  So a good way to begin a communication is to find out what the other person (or group) has on its mind.


A classic mistake that many consultants make when they’re meeting a client for the first time, in either informal settings or more formal presentations, is to begin “by introducing ourselves.”  So, the first ten minutes or so of the discussion is all about them. Nothing could be less engaging for the potential client. Why should she care?


A much better way is to begin by showing that you understand the client’s problems. Even better is to get the client to tell you her problem. Either way is more connecting and involving than the self-introduction.


Be Consistent

Connected communication is consistent. We don’t like to experience ourselves as inconsistent, so if I can snare your attention once, I’m likely to be able to get it again unless I’ve abused the privilege.  People prefer the familiar to the strange in most things.  Why go to all the work of developing a new source or finding a new expert if the old one will do?  Once a celebrity, a newscaster, or a politician reaches the top of the heap, the sheer inertia of their audiences will keep them there until they do something egregious enough to warrant pushing them out and finding a replacement.  So begin your presentations by stressing your connection with the audience or its celebrities, and stress the familiar aspects of message before the more unusual. 


Be Social

Connected communication is social. If everyone’s doing it, we’re more likely to join in unless we have an oppositional streak. Communications success breeds communications success.  This explains fads and the popularity of otherwise inexplicable things (like Barry Manilow).  Malcolm Gladwell has explored this aspect of communication thoroughly in his brilliant book, The Tipping Point. He argues that a combination of people who are naturally more gregarious than the rest of us and the theory that ideas spread like infectious diseases adds up to a moment when suddenly everyone is aware of a new idea, phenomenon, or fad. We are social beings, and run in packs.  So connect with your audience by stressing the social aspects of your message.