Friday, October 30, 2009

Keep it short--REALLY short

Let's face it, no one ever liked a long acceptance speech from an award winner--and now that audience attention spans are getting shorter and more cluttered with information, prize ceremonies are following suit. First, the Webby Awards for websites and blogs asked winners to limit themselves to no more than five word acceptance speeches. Now, the Mass High Tech awards asked winners to accept with what amounts to a Twitter speech--no more than 140 characters. The price for exceeding that limit: $1 per character, with the proceeds to go to a charity, which of course prompted some speakers to wax even more eloquent.

This tactic works well for a variety of reasons. It pokes fun at a part of the ceremony that audiences dread, making it part inside joke, part game--and it challenges the speakers to give crisper, tighter remarks. How might you use this as a speaker or organizer?
  • Copy this idea for your next award ceremony. Ask winners for a headline, a 10-word acceptance for your 10th anniversary, a tweet-length remark, five words that capture why they got into the profession or the question they still wish they could answer. (Do specify a word limit, though, and announce it to the audience.)
  • Use it for a panel discussion. Why put the audience through a panel that keeps answering questions with, "As Bill just said...." or "If I can just add to that...."? Tell the panelists they need to confine answers to five words and make a game out of the Q&A portion.
  • Use it to introduce speakers. Ask moderators or introducers (at a ceremony, panel or conference) to intro the speakers with five keywords everyone should know about them...or ask speakers to submit five word or 140-character bios.
  • Make the audience play. Ask for questions that are five words, 10 words or 140 characters long. It's a great way to engage audience members already on Twitter, which will count characters for them.

Share your ideas for keeping speaking roles short in the comments!

Tip or treat: October's top 10 tips

Readers chose the tips and treats they found on this blog in October, and I'm happy to share them with you in this monthly roundup of our most popular posts:
  1. Should you use or lose the lectern? The focus of week 7 of our Step Up Your Speaking online coaching included this popular post with 3 video examples of women speakers demonstrating best practices, with or without a lectern. You can see online trainee Stephanie Benoit's thoughts on speakers and lecterns here.
  2. Delivering her mother's eulogy was the challenge faced by one of The Eloquent Woman's fans on Facebook--and readers responded with their tips and advice.
  3. How can I work on making eye contact? Stephanie asked in week 6 of our online coaching, and I responded with ways eye contact can get a speaker off-track.
  4. Ignite! -- a speaking competition organized in cities around the U.S. -- inspired me to visit the Baltimore session held this month, and I featured two women speakers in this well-read post. One, a first-time speaker, is working on a guest post about her experience. Stay tuned!
  5. To show Stephanie ways to connect with her audience, part of week 8 of our coaching, I took a tour of the FDR Memorial in Washington as inspiration for ways to better reach your listeners.
  6. When did "um" become a dirty word? Michael Erard, author of the book , traces how speech disfluencies like um and uh went from normal to disparaged in this interview with our blog.
  7. Do bullet points work in your slides? We featured a post from presentation blogger Olivia Mitchell that walks through the science of how audiences perceive bullets--and the answer is probably not as well as you think.
  8. Using a prop to emphasize your point can underscore your message in a powerful way. This popular post gives you a video of a doctor discussing the H1N1 flu virus and its availability to see a great example, plus our tips.
  9. The Eloquent Woman celebrated its 2-year anniversary in October with this roundup of our all-time-most-popular posts --a bagful of extra treats this month.
  10. Prepping for a speech is like packing a suitcase, the focus of week 9 of my coaching with Stephanie. Getting ready without overpreparing is one of her top priorities, and this post packs a suitcase-full of tips.