Skip to Content?

Latest From The Blog

Welcome to the blog of author and speechwriter/ coach, Joan Detz.
View the latest blog posts below or choose from the categories in the right menu.
Subscribe to RSS Feed

How to become a numbers person in journalism … and also in speechwriting

The following excellent article shows journalists how to understand numbers and manage data. I’d like to remind speechwriters (especially speechwriters who want to get freelance assignments): the ability to understand numbers will give you an advantage in the job market. Why? Because too few speechwriters are comfortable with numbers. Speechwriters who have taken math and science courses will beat out other applicants when applying to write speeches and PowerPoint presentations in math/science fields.

I’ll do a speechwriting session at the 2015 ASJA Conference: “How to Get Freelance Speechwriting Jobs – No Matter Where You Live”

Annual Writers Conference

New York City

April 30 – May 2, 2015  |  Roosevelt Hotel

Want to know the secret to a successful writing career? Come to ASJA’s 44th Annual Writers Conference, Connect for Success, in midtown Manhattan Apr. 30 through May 2, 2015.

ASJA’s 1200+ members know that connection – to other highly skilled writers, to industry professionals and to market trends – is crucial to success. That’s why hundreds of our members gather in NYC each year, and why our members and conference attendees consistently call ASJA’s annual conference a worthwhile investment in their careers.

The 2015 conference includes 50+ informative sessions; one-on-one meetings with editors, agents and publishers; three pitch slams (think poetry slam, but with article pitches instead of poetry – and immediate feedback from interested editors); formal and informal networking opportunities; personal mentoring; hands-on learning and a keynote speech by New York Times contributor and bestselling author Jennifer Finney Boylan.

Brand new this year: An entire track devoted to hands- on learning opportunities. You’ll practice new skills in sessions and leave prepared to implement them into your freelance business. As always, the conference will include content for freelance writers at all stages of their careers and will touch on every aspect of a successful freelance writing career, from writing techniques to business management, marketing techniques and work/life balance.

New sessions this year include:

  • Solutions-Based Journalism
  • Writing Residencies
  • Going Viral: How to Get Attention for Your Book or Story
  • Creating & Selling Info Products
  • Researching & Writing Front Page Features

Other sessions will dive into self-publishing, speechwriting and public speaking, nonfiction (and fiction) book writing and content marketing. Editors and experienced journalists will share their secrets for success in garden writing, travel writing, food writing, tech writing and much, much more.

This year’s conference once again includes one members-only day and two public days, which are open to all students, writers, and aspiring writers. The media landscape is changing, but it IS possible to make a good living as a freelance writer.

And, if you do freelance speechwriting, you can make a very good living!

Come to NYC in April 2015 and connect for success.

How to handle tough, awkward, difficult questions

I’m preparing to teach a 2-hour workshop next week on “How to Give Good Answers to Tough Questions “. Often clients will ask me to teach a Q&A session. And, yes, while it’s important to prepare for the Q&A session that will follow our presentation, it’s probably more important to be ready for off-the-cuff, out-of-nowhere questions that can zap our confidence and undercut our authority..

Your toughest questions might not come when you’re standing at the front of a room.  They can come before your speech – while you’re quietly sorting through your notes as you prepare to go on.  Still worse, odd questions can strike before you even enter the venue – say, while you’re walking across the parking lot or hanging up your coat or headed to the lavatory.

Or they can come after the entire event is over – as you’re packing up your materials to leave.

Whatever you say:

1. Make it good.  Audiences might forget the details of your presentation, but they will always remember how you took the time (or didn’t take the time) to answer their specific question.

2. Make it safe. Be accurate. You never know when you’ll be quoted.

3. Make it brief. When someone asks a question at an odd time, keep your answer much shorter than usual. True: It’s not polite for audiences to pester speakers in the coffee room … but no point in alienating the questioner. Just keep your answer brief, smile, look pleased to be helpful, and then walk away briskly. You deserve some time to yourself.

Follow me on Twitter for more #publicspeaking tips.

How financial professionals can give better presentations

Last week, I had the honor of speaking at the AFP conference in Washington DC (Association for Financial Professionals). Many attendees have emailed to request more information on the topic of my AFP presentation: “How to Speak with Confidence and Clout”.

I thought it might be useful to reprint the “presentation skills” article I wrote for the May edition of the AFP Exchange.

Ten Steps to Successful Presentations

  • By Joan Detz
  • Published: 2014-05-09

So, you’ve been asked to give a presentation? Perhaps—for the first time—to senior management or even the board of directors? These steps will take you from content selection to post-delivery feedback. You’ll be able to give better presentations and get better results.

Focus your topic. You can’t say everything in one presentation. The more you try to include, the less your audience will be able to remember. Resist the temptation to include every data point. Resist the urge to incorporate everything you know about the subject. What do you most want the audience to understand? That’s what you need to put in.

Understand your audience. Are you presenting a budget to a few associates seated around a table? Addressing a large audience at a major conference? Hosting an international conference call? Consider the demographics of each audience: age range, educational backgrounds, professional goals, etc. Consider the psychology of each audience. What do they want to hear from you? What do they worry about hearing from you? Do you need to break bad news?     Adjust your content, your PowerPoint and your speaking style to suit the unique personality of each group.

Target your research. Use a wide range of research: interesting statistics, personal anecdotes, powerful examples, lively quotations, clever definitions, references to the day’s news, client comments (“Yesterday I received an email from a client asking about …” ), real-life comparisons and visual illustrations all work here.

Organize your material. Make your presentation easy to follow. Give it a strong beginning, an orderly middle, and a strong ending. Don’t fade away at the end. A tip to help you improve your structure: Make sure your ending directly relates to your beginning in some way. Does your last PowerPoint screen echo your first? Do your final sentences reinforce your opening sentences? Does your concluding call to action reinforce your opening goal?

Speak in everyday language. Make it easy to understand. Avoid legalese or bureaucratese. Use plain English: short words, clear sentences. Look at your PowerPoint. If you have full sentences on the screen, you’ve got too much verbiage. No audience will read through a wordy screen. Cut ruthlessly. Read your presentation out loud several times. If you find yourself stumbling over awkward phrases or tripping over complex sentences, rewrite those lines.

Give it style. One financial professional told me, “I never paid much attention to presentation style. I’ve always thought the numbers mattered most.” Yes, the numbers matter. But any presentation can be improved significantly by using a few simple speechwriting devices:

  • Repetition: “Here’s how we benefit. Here’s how we all benefit.”
  • Rhetorical questions: “What happens if you do nothing?”
  • Triads (expressing items in groups of three): The most famous triad you’ve probably ever heard came in President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” But any financial presentation can benefit from the same triad technique: “We need to investigate, to explore, to question.”

Use humor with great care (if at all). You will never have the opportunity to “undo” a tasteless joke, and you will never have the opportunity to “redo” a botched punch line. So think before you use any humor. Remember: Humor should not be gratuitous. If used, humor has to blend into your remarks. Above all, understand that humor should not offend the audience in any way.

Allow adequate time for rehearsals. Good presentations require practice. It isn’t just what you say, it’s also how you say it. Analyze the way you use your voice, body language, eye contact and audio/visual aids.

Consider the attention your presentation might generate. What do you want your audience to remember? What do you want them to tell their colleagues? Write down your marketing goals and then make sure your presentation has the memorable lines you need to impact your listeners. A good presentation includes quotable phrases (sound-bites). The most concise and clever sound-bites get tweeted, re-tweeted, quoted, noted and repeated. This produces valuable attention for you and helps market your organization. Positive attention will multiply your message, increase your professional network, and help you build a strong reputation in the finance field.

Seek feedback. A presentation doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists in conjunction with an audience. Find out: Did your audience like your presentation? Did they find it interesting? Do they see you as an authority? Do they respect your expertise? You can get valuable feedback by providing written evaluation forms at your session, offering online evaluation forms, or simply speaking informally with attendees in the days following your presentation.

Joan Detz, who will present at AFP’s Annual Conference in November, is the author of three books on public speaking, including How to Write & Give A Speech, which just published its 30th anniversary edition (St. Martin’s Press).

Get #publicspeakingtips from @JoanDetz on Twitter.

A longer version of this article appears in the May edition of AFP Exchange.

- See more at:

Why news conferences matter: Did you ever wonder how – exactly – the Berlin Wall fell so quickly?

Recent news coverage has paid much attention to the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. For the most part, I followed this news on Deutsche Welle – I wanted to get a German perspective on this monumental moment in history.

But one article in The Wall Street Journal stood out from all the rest: “Did a Gaffe Bring Down The Wall?”. Written by Marcus Walker, the article emphasizes that the Wall’s opening on November 9, 1989 “took everyone by surprise, from President George H.W. Bush and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.” As journalist Walker explains: “Even East German leaders were baffled, because they hadn’t ordered it.”

The glitch came at a news conference where a Communist Party official botched the intended message. When the official’s statement sounded fuzzy, journalists jumped on the chance to ask pointed questions – and the rest is history.

If you work in media relations or coach speakers for media interviews or simply appreciate the importance of using the right words at the right time … read this WSJ article. Even if you’ve already read a dozen articles about the fall of the Berlin Wall, take a few extra minutes to read this one:

Teleseminar on ghostwriting

Join ASJA (the American Society of Journalists and Authors) Educational Foundation for “How to Get Ghostwriting Gigs”, a teleseminar on Wednesday, November 19 at 1pm ET. The guest expert Marcia Layton Turner has authored, co-authored, or ghosted more than 30 nonfiction books.

Shop Talk teleseminars are free for ASJA members, $19 for nonmembers. Don’t worry if you have a schedule conflict; everyone who registers will be able to download the recording later.

Learn more

Do you write or give speeches about leadership?

Yesterday I taught a Leadership Communications workshop. Whether you write or speak about leadership, here’s a reference that will serve you well:

Leadership: A Treasury of Great Quotations for Everybody Who Aspires to Succeed as a Leader

compiled and edited by William Safire and Leonard Safir

published by Simon and Schuster

How to use podcasts

Within recent weeks, I’ve heard from people who want to learn more about podcasts.  Over the years, I’ve written scripts for podcasts and also trained speakers for appearing in podcasts. It’s an exciting form of communication – and one you definitely don’t want to mess up!

I recommend reading the following article by Christopher Pappas to learn how you can make podcasts a successful part of your eLearning initiatives.

From eLearning Industry (written by Christopher Pappas)

How to Add Podcasts In eLearning

There are a variety of reasons why you may want to consider adding podcasts to your eLearning course. From increased learner engagement to enhanced knowledge retention, the benefits of integrating podcasts into your eLearning course are well worth the time and resources that you will invest. After all, eLearning podcasts can give you the opportunity to make learning fun, informative, and exciting for your learners, not to mention more effective.

  1. Brainstorm to generate ideas or topics that are both relevant and entertaining.
    Before you even begin to write the script and record your eLearning podcast, you’ll want to think of ideas or topics that you consider as valuable and entertaining for the learners. You want to keep them engaged and get them excited about the eLearning podcast, which means that you’ll have to come up with an idea that offers them some sort of benefit and isn’t redundant or boring. Gather a few ideas, even if you have to enlist the help of a subject matter expert in the field, and then decide which one you should lead off with. For your first eLearning podcast, try to keep things simple, while still offering your learners invaluable information, so that you avoid cognitive overload. You may be tempted to include as much knowledge, tips, or lesson points as possible, but bear in mind that there will be future eLearning podcasts in which you can explore the topic further.
  2. Gather the necessary eLearning podcast creation tools beforehand.
    Figure out which tools you are going to need before you move on. Do you have a microphone that is going to help you to produce clear quality sound? Do you have the free podcast tools that can handle the editing and rendering process? All of these tools will help you to create a winning eLearning podcast without breaking the bank. A good microphone can be purchased rather inexpensively, and there are a variety of free audio tools you can use to take your recording to the next level.
  3. Create a script or outline to streamline the process.
    Even if you aren’t planning on writing out a script, it’s still a good idea to at least have an outline that can help keep you on track during your eLearning podcast recording session. Within this outline you can jot down any important lesson points or topics you want to cover, invaluable resources or references you’d like to mention, as well as a brief overview of how you’d like to structure your eLearning podcast. For example, you can break the outline down into bullet points so that you know which topic you’d like to cover first and which you’d like to cover later, as you move forward. This gives you the opportunity to avoid awkward pauses or constant recording breaks which can make the editing process a lot easier.
  4. Do a practice run before you start recording your eLearning podcast.
    It’s always wise to do a practice run before you start recording the real thing, as it will allow you to iron out any issues that you hadn’t expected. For instance, during your practice run you may discover that the room you are using has too much background noise, or that you need to move away from the microphone in order to reduce vocal distortion. Doing so, will also allow you perfect your tone and pace. Keep in mind that your first eLearning podcast doesn’t have to be perfect, but avoiding these common pitfalls can help you to significantly increase your production value.
  5. Use free editing software to enhance the professionalism of your eLearning podcast.
    There are a variety of free editing tools that you can use to make your eLearning podcast sound more professional and polished. Audacity is one of the most popular options, which you can download and use absolutely free of charge. This software will give you the opportunity to remove clicking, background noises, adjust volume levels, and even add vocal sound effects. It’s relatively simple and straightforward to use, but there is a bit of a learning curve so you may want to read up on the software or use it ahead of time in order to get familiar with the features and functions. You are able to upload your raw recordings into the editing software or record tracks within the software itself, enhance them, and then export your creation in a number of different formats.
  6. Consider a variety of delivery methods.
    You may want to offer your eLearning podcasts via a number of delivery platforms. Rather than just offering it on iTunes, you may want to also include download links for your eLearning podcast directly within your eLearning course or eLearning site. This will give learners the chance to have immediate access to the eLearning podcast without having to click away. You can also create an RSS feed that lets learners know when you’ve uploaded a new eLearning podcast, which can be a great way to get the word out if you are planning on a series of eLearning podcasts.

With a handful of tools, a bit of “know-how”, and this article at-the-ready, you can start creating eLearning podcasts that will offer your learners a top notch learning experience. One last tip that I’d like to leave you with, is to ensure that your eLearning podcast links are always active, and to share your link as much as possible with your learners. Put in your forum signature, tweet about it, and start building the buzz for your eLearning podcasts.

If you’re in search of free podcast tools that you can use to begin creating engaging and entertaining eLearning podcasts for your learners, you may want to check out the article Free Podcast Tools, which highlights the best free podcast production tools that you may want to consider.

In addition, if you want to learn more on how to produce good quality audio narrations, I encourage you to read the article 6 Tips for Producing Good Quality Audio Narrations Every Online Educator Should Know About, where you will find invaluable tips to help you produce your audio narrations.

Last but not least, at the article 5 Tips for eLearning Voice Recording you will find some helpful eLearning voice recording tips to plan for your next eLearning project. They might help you get a much better voice recording or at least avoid problems.

How Harry Truman added “local color” to his speeches

Do not miss Edward Kosner’s fine article about Harry Truman’s race for the presidency. This Wall Street Journal piece provides interesting background on the speechwriting process that served Truman so well.

As Truman criss-crossed America during his campaign, he personalized his speeches by building local rapport with each audience. And where did all those local details come from? They were written back in Washington.

For speechwriters who like to cut needless words … which is to say, all good speechwriters

Savvy speechwriters know the value of removing “I think” and “I know” from the beginning of sentences. Our speech manuscripts immediately become stronger when we make even a few “I think/I know” cuts.

But this excellent little essay from The New York Times reminds us of two additional two-word phrases that might usually need to meet the delete button.

Imagine Abraham Lincoln ending his Gettysburg Address with: “Government kind of by the people”. Or JFK inspiring with “The torch is sort of passed to a new generation.”

Enjoy this essay. The last paragraph is golden.

Page 1 of 10812345...102030...Last »