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International speakers

How to give a presentation in English … when English is your second language

I’m pleased to give public speaking tips to English-as-second-language speakers in this Business Venezuela magazine. (The article appears in both English and Spanish.)

Te invitamos a leer Nuestra Edición Digital N# 360 2018 “TOP 100 COMPANIES” 20 Años presentando el mejor ranking de negocios en Venezuela.

To read my featured piece click here.

What will you do this week to get involved in a professional organization?

I rejoined the International Association of Business Communicators – Philadelphia Chapter. I started my career as a member in the New York City chapter – seldom missing a meeting.

Keep in mind:

You don’t have to join a professional organization to start getting involved. You can follow an organization on Twitter (IABC has great #commchats), get practical info through the group’s website, go to a local chapter meeting, grow professionally by attending the annual conference (I’ve presented on speechwriting at several international conferences and can vouch that IABC provides a well-run learning experience), or visit a distant chapter when you’re traveling.

Did you know, for example, that Toastmasters has chapters around the world? If you take a business trip to Singapore or vacation in Ireland, why not attend a nearby Toastmasters meeting? You’ll get a warm welcome – and boost your global network.

Each week, I do one thing to boost my engagement in a professional organization. I look forward to becoming more active in IABC again.

How will you grow this week?

Foreign Book Covers

Public speaking & media training: Statistic of the month

“It’s not normal for you to go to a community, weigh 100 children and have 30 of them close to dying.” (Susanna Raffalli, nutritional coordinator, speaking about the human devastation in Caritas Venezuela)


+ the impact of using the personal pronoun “you” to engage listeners in the statistic (“It’s not normal for you to go to a community … “)

+ the power of using round numbers: “100 children … 30 of them close to dying”. Round numbers are more quotable.

On a personal note:

For the sake of the children who are suffering so terribly in Venezuela, I hope you’ll find opportunities to share this statistic with others. The chaos in Venezuela gets precious little media attention in the US. I’m aware of Venezuela’s situation through international business communication colleagues who are trying to do their professional best in what has become a disaster zone.

Freelance speechwriters: Time to update your website?

Spanish cover Como escibir un discurso

If it’s time to update your website, make sure you cite comments/clients/recommendations from a wide geographical range.

Freelance speechwriting is a global business – if you market it globally.

A freelance speechwriter who attended 5 of my speechwriting seminars has turned a local speechwriting business into a global speechwriting business. I’m delighted to see this. If the entire world is filled with potential clients, why limit yourself to the companies in your hometown?

Essential: Update your website to include blurbs from international clients. Don’t have any international clients yet? Well, cite diverse forums, global topics, English-as-second-language executives.

Maybe you’ve written a speech about Brexit, or climate change, or multi-cultural workforces. Note this speechwriting experience. It all speaks to your broad worldview, and it increases your professional value.

(Yes, in case you’re wondering: Experienced international speechwriters earn higher rates.)

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The speechwriter’s skill set: More tips for better listening

Remain silent while a client finishes telling you his account. Then paraphrase your client:

“Now, let me make sure I get your priorities straight. First, CSR needs to …”

At this point, you should get some feedback from your speaker. Feedback usually falls into two categories.

A speaker might say:

* “That’s it! That’s exactly what I want to emphasize.”
OR she might say:
* Well, no, not exactly. I do want CSR to ____, but first we need to ____.”

See? The more you listen, the more you learn. And the more you learn during the interview phase, the less rewriting you’ll need to do later on.

Ah, less rewriting … there’s the reward!

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Listening tips for speechwriters

When interviewing your client for a major speech, talk less and listen more. You’ll get better information – and the executive will get a better speech.

1. Sit quietly.
2. Watch body language.
3. Listen to tone.
4. Don’t interrupt.
5. Really: Don’t interrupt.
6. Remain silent as the speaker tells his anecdote or shares her data. Note exactly what your client emphasizes (where she speaks louder, where he underscores a key phrase).
7. Think: “What did I learn about this speaker’s messaging priorities?”
8. Also think: “What did careful listening teach me about my client’s public speaking skills?”

Use what you learn to write a speech tailored to your client’s unique needs.


Need help crafting a better speech? I can help you with that.

Public speaking: Working with a professional speaker

Many organizations go to a great deal of work/expense to hire a professional speaker for their conference – but then let the ball drop by overlooking the final travel logistics.

You want your speaker to arrive fresh/rested at the podium. Leave nothing to chance.

Start by booking convenient lodging – preferably onsite.

If no onsite lodging is available, take full responsibility to get the speaker from the hotel to the venue. Do not make speakers fend for themselves in an unfamiliar city with driving/parking/taxi hassles. I’ve been in that position. It wasn’t pretty.

Arrange for a trusted car service to pick up your speaker … tap the flexibility of Uber or Lyft … even offer to drive the speaker yourself.

A personal note:

When teaching speechwriting workshops at Air Force bases, I’ve always been grateful to have the host pick me up at my hotel and drive me to the base. This saves time/frustration … prevents security delays … keeps me comfortable … and assures that I arrive ready to work. Perhaps best of all, chatting with the host en route lets me learn more about the people I’ll be teaching.

Bottom line: I arrive as a professional speaker – focused, fresh, on time, and all set to do a professional job.


Are you ready for your next Q&A session?

I just finished coaching a client for a big Q&A session. In particular, I focused on coaching the executive to improve his question-and-answer skills with international audiences.

The a-ha moment for my speaker was: “Preparing for a Q&A takes at least as much work as preparing to give a major presentation.”

Truer words were never spoken.

Allocate your preparation time accordingly. Don’t skimp on Q&A practice. (FYI: The more diverse your audience, the sharper your skills have to be. Content alone won’t suffice … you’ll need multicultural communication skills to save the day.)

Right from the beginning, budget time for Q&A practice each time you rehearse your presentation. Don’t wait until the last minute to think about the questions you might get.

Need help? This book has a detailed section on Q&A sessions – and you can borrow it widely from public libraries:

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