Harvey Mackay’s 35 To Stay Alive

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Harvey Mackay’s 35 To Stay Alive

In the course of speaking to innumerable audiences all over the world, Harvey has gleaned invaluable tips and tricks for giving speeches in any setting. He shares them here in his “35 To Stay Alive.”

  1. Room size.
  2. Room size.
  3. Room size. If a hundred are going to attend, the room size should hold 75. If five hundred people are coming, the room should hold four hundred. You want the excitement of a standing room only bumper to bumper crowd.
  4. If there is extra space at the back of the room, put up screens or use plants to cut down the excess space. Also, try to avoid high ceiling rooms.
  5. Avoid stages that are so high you look like the Ayatollah glaring down at your subjects.
  6. Studies show that people remember more and laugh more in brightness. Turn the lights up full blast, unless you are showing slides. Then, dim the screen area but light up the audience. Now, you can still have excellent eye contact with your audience.
  7. Set the podium back a few feet so you can walk in front of it.
  8. If you are addressing a breakfast, lunch, or dinner audience, ask your introducer to request politely that the people with their backs to the stage turn their chairs forward so they don’t have to crane their necks.
  9. Request that the photographer not take pictures during the first 10-15 minutes of your speech. You want no distractions while you are in the process of feeling out the microphone, adjusting to the lights, and getting the pulse of the audience.
  10. Always carry a ruler and masking tape in case the lip of the podium is not high enough for your papers… then build your own lip.
  11. Use masking tape to strap down any cranking door latches that might shut with a bang while you are talking. (Hotel rooms are notorious for this!)
  12. You can also use masking tape to seal off the back rows in order to insure the audience will fill in the front rows first. Your audience will want to scatter… you want them compact.
  13. Always try to have a real pro introduce you… not someone who is a poor speaker being given the honor because of their status in the organization. Introducers are critical… the stage must be set.
  14. Have the first row set very close to the stage. Too much space between the speaker and the first row creates a lack of chemistry with the audience.
  15. Outside noise from the adjoining rooms and hallways is the #1 killer of meetings. In fact, if another event is being held in the rooms adjacent to my talk, I will make every effort to book another venue. If you can’t hear a pin drop, you’re in the wrong room. A quick phone call to the catering manager will insure total quiet.
  16. Never, never, never end your program with a question and answer session. You cannot control the agenda or the quality of the questions and the fireworks of your topic can end with a fizzle. Start the Q & A five minutes before the end of your talk, then transition from one of your answers to a real climax.
  17. Most people are shy about asking the first question; therefore, you may get stymied by an awkward silence. Break the ice by stating that problem and then saying… “Okay, we’ll start with the second question!”
  18. If you have a questionable story, try it out on the person who invited you to speak and at least two others before using it. Better yet, if in doubt, don’t tell it at all.
  19. Find out who the group’s last three to five speakers were and how they were accepted. Probe as to why they were successful or why they failed.
  20. Sometimes you may be wise to turn down a speech, no matter how badly you want the order. Do your homework before you say yes. If it’s not within your area of expertise or the sponsoring organization really should not have invited you, be candid and turn it down. Ultimately, the negative word of mouth will come back and cost you much more than the value of the honorarium.
  21. Allow every organization to audio or video tape you gratis. Put your bread on the water and don’t get too big headed for your own good.
  22. Always request that an engineer be in the room during your entire talk in case of microphone problems.
  23. Request verbatim copies of any or all rating surveys from your talks. There is no substitute for constant, immediate, unfiltered audience feedback.
  24. Ask for copies of any prepared remarks from any other speakers if available. This can dramatically help your research on the company or the industry.
  25. Constantly update your prepared introductions. And, be sure they are written to be read as is. Don’t risk an under-rehearsed introducer stumbling through your bio.
  26. Contact the Chamber of Commerce of any city you are to speak in. They will give you loads of information to familiarize you with the local surroundings and help you personalize your remarks.
  27. Never, never mispronounce a proper name – - if you’re not sure, check with the sponsor. Then double check.
  28. Send a creative gift to the key person who helped you with the logistics, set up, and preparation for your speech. They are often overworked and underappreciated. They will never forget you for it.
  29. Whether it’s ten minutes, or ten hours, do not go over your allotted time. This puts additional pressure on all concerned. Remember: Agreements prevent disagreements. Have a perfect understanding of your time frame and what is expected of you.
  30. In doing your homework for a presentation ask for:
    • Investor relations kit (if publicly held company)
    • Annual reports
    • New and old newspaper, magazine stories
    • Video/audio information on company or organization
    • Company house newsletter
    • Industry publications
    • Company web sites
  31. Station someone in the back of the room whose sole job is to put out fires for you. Let them search for extra chairs, adjust the lights, quell outside noise, welcome late arrivals, and catch slamming doors, so you don’t have to think about it.
  32. Never check a room out with any of the audience present. If the audience has already started to arrive, you’re already too late to make substantive changes. Furthermore, you want the first impression to be you, on stage and in control, not sweating over a malfunctioning mike.
  33. Make a special effort to contact the competitors of the company you are addressing. Nothing gets the audience’s attention like the mention of an arch-rival.
  34. If you don’t have a smashing “opener” and “closer,” go back to the drawing board. And, don’t step up to the microphone until you do.

Debrief yourself within twenty-four hours of a speech, and take ten minutes to write down what you could do better the next time. With so many unknowns, the amount to be learned is infinite. Try something new every time you speak and you’ll never become stale.

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