On words written and spoken … and the passing of a mentor

Public_speaking-v2I have been a public speaker and writer for most of my working life, but never had any formal training in either discipline. In late 2005, I came across an ad in the Delta Airline’s magazine for The Buckley School of Public Speaking in Camden, SC. I did some research and was impressed to know that its founder and author of numerous books on public speaking, Reid Buckley, was a hands-on instructor. Since I had just begun writing No-Compromise Leadership, I decided the timing was right, and in February 2006, I headed off to Reid’s school to get my butt kicked by the master.

From the moment I met Reid, I regarded him as my mentor. He pushed me to write with clarity and speak with conviction and authority. He personally reviewed and edited my short essay … and delivered the best constructive criticism of my writing. During the speaking segments, Reid identified every weakness and offered up some amazing “tortures” to cure them (like dropping a ball bearing into a metal bucket every time he heard an “um” or “you know”).

Reid Buckley passed away on April 14th at the age of 83. Reid was a consummate communicator, a prolific author and public speaker, and a championship debater. Reid was passionate about writing and speaking … and held everyone to THE highest standard. He demanded and inspired you to achieve your full potential.

Since my time with Reid, I’ve written three books … one of which, No-Compromise Leadership, won the 2010 IPPY Award for Business and Leadership. Reid was in my mind and fingertips as I wrote.

Here are some no-compromise “Reid Buckley” takeaways on public speaking and writing:

  • Don’t be a lazy writer: Have compassion for your readers. Don’t waste their time with flowery words, sentences that run into oblivion, and superfluous thoughts that prevent your point from hitting home. Get to the point. Write with directness and efficiency. In my essay I wrote the words, “…quite honestly…” In Reid’s edits, he wrote, “Are you dishonest at other times?” I never used those words again. I distill my thoughts to use as few words as possible to make my point.
  • Writing to change the world: Reid says, “You are not writing merely to pass peoples’ time; you are not writing to inflate the reputation of your company; you are not writing for the eristic thrill of seeing your ego configured in 13 point Antique Olive bold face. You are writing to make a world-shaking ideological or philosophical mark, without which your society will not survive. You are writing to change the world.” Reid also reminds you to be humble in your writing and speaking.
  • Shock the audience: Your opening statements should shock and amaze your audience with its complexity and difficulty, or with its outrageousness. From the outset, you must compel your audience to sit up in their seats and pay attention. All too often, speakers take the stage and open with dry, boring content that signals to their audience that it’s going to be long and painful speech. If you have something worth saying … make it obvious from start. Just make sure you carry that energy through to the end.
  • Command the stage: Take the stage, podium or front of the room like you own it – like you lived for this very moment to share your thoughts, wisdom, insights and point of view. Posture and demeanor should exude confidence. It doesn’t matter what the butterflies are doing … as long as the butterflies are flying in formation. Timid speakers, no matter how powerful their message, are hard to pay attention to and follow. Practice your walk, your stance and your voice volume. Reid pushed our class of twelve to exaggerate and over-emphasize our voice and gestures to get comfortable with our total range of speaking. I left knowing that I had a much broader range that I rarely, if ever, used.
  • Make eye contact: Eye contact keeps your connection with the audience through your speech. Reid had us do a speaking exercise where members of our audience (the class) raised their hands at the beginning of our speeches. Hands would remain raised until the speaker made solid eye contact with each individual. Only then could they lower their hands. Eye contact makes it personal. Eye contact adds impact and meaning to your message.
  • The tyranny of PowerPoint: According to Reid, PowerPoint is a crutch of the lazy and unimaginative person. “CEO’s who promote or tolerate PowerPoint should be summarily canned by stockholders for pernicious stupidity.” A speaker should never surrender the power and influence of the stage to a PowerPoint presentation – especially one with endless bullets that the audience could just as well read on their own. PowerPoint is good for charts and images – but only in limited quantity. PowerPoint robs the speaker of personality. Personally, I hate PowerPoint. My best speeches have been without PowerPoint. Sadly, many events expect and require a speaker to provide a PowerPoint.

R.I.P. Reid Buckley. Thank you for the lessons.

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click above to comment.

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.


1 Response to “On words written and spoken … and the passing of a mentor”

  1. 1 Remo
    April 21, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Hi Neil, It is very informative & direct, Would appreciate if you could start a another practice session on Friday’s it will be great. Reason : After hectic week with work, the day of the week, we take it a bit easy and if there could session released to work at home. On Monday, everyone is energetic to apply to the real life. Just a suggestion.

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