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Learning doesn’t stop, even if people finishes school or don’t even attend one in the first place. That’s life for you, forever giving you opportunities to gather new knowledge. Now, it’s hard to be scholastic about everything, because people won’t get things done if they do. That’s why reading is encouraged. Whatever work you do, it’s always good to be a well-rounded person. It’s not just about earning more money, it’s also about being as efficient as possible.

As a motivational speaker, I only want the best for the people I help. But I’m also the first to tell you that motivation can only do so much for some people. It may even leave the people half-full. This is where reading helps, because their stock knowledge complements what I say in the keynote. It’s the same if they start to read after attending the seminar.

From the Sourcebusiness speaker Brad

Most people, even from a young age, attribute reading as a primary source of knowledge, if not success. As early as the third grade, we are able to associate answers to something we read. If you are a manager, it’s worth the effort to locate books that will help your employee. If you are working for a team, you suggest the same thing.

Let’s face it: as adults, we find academic books dull. The books we’re likely to read are those that are in the self-help sections of bookstores. It’s no shame to admit that, probably because those books actually help. Even fictional stories help, as long as they contain values that will help people’s development further.

The Role of Speakers

This is where motivational speakers, like me, come in. Think of us as batting coaches. We’ll tell you where the pitcher is likely to throw the ball so you can hit a homerun. We prepare speeches and topics that will work with certain types of employees or for a certain industry.

Give Brad Montgomery a chance to work for you and your employees. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

probation1Dear readers:  no, I’m not on probation.  No I haven’t ever been caught up in the justice system.  But I did recently get hired to be a funny motivational speaker for a bunch of fine probation pros based in the Chicago, Illinois area.  (Though oddly we went to Wisconsin to have the event.)

It was a total hoot.

Ethical Bribe:   ?Hey you probation peeps!  Leave a comment on my blogbelow and tell me one thing that you did differently based on our time together today.  And tell me what the effect was.  (Did it make your day more fun?  What happened at the meeting when you did it?  What did your kids do?) And then I’ll send you something fun.   (No, not a Ford Explorer or a $500 shopping spree, but it’s fun and cool.  And it’s my treat.)   The first 15 people who reply with how you were spurred into action will get a free gift.

You will type in your email but that remains private and is never published.   It just is for me to send you the gift.

Ethical Bribe:   ?Leave a comment on my blog at www.BradMontgomery.com and tell me one thing that you did differently based on our time together today.  And tell me what the effect was.  (Did it make your day more fun?  What happened at the meeting when you did it?  What did your kids do?) And then I’ll send you something fun.   (No, not a Ford Explorer or a $500 shopping spree, but it’s fun and cool.  And it’s my treat.)   The first 15 people who reply with how you were spurred into action will get a free gift.

probation2

Thanks again.  It was a total pleasure to be your probation speaker.

Are you an organization — probation or otherwise — and need a speaker to motivate in a laugh out loud funny way, I hope you’ll pick me. Contact me here.

probation3

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I was just at speaking for the USDA Farm Services group in South Dakota. usda-logo It was a total hoot. I was totally flattered with this nice letter. Take a look:

To Whomever It May Concern,

This letter is a strong endorsement of speaker Brad Montgomery.

I talked Brad up big to our people; I was looking for a home run. Brad was even better than we hoped.

Our organization is going through many changes, and our people needed a boost to help them through these changes. And if your organization is anything like mine, you know that creating behavior and attitude change is harder than it sounds.

Brad spoke to a large portion of my group responsible for making millions of dollars worth of loans. I’m glad he did; he made a difference. His program was a total success.

In the days following Brad’s appearance, I got surprisingly many positive comments. (They loved him!) But also, I heard anecdotal evidence of Brad’s impact on morale, attitude, and my people’s ability to tackle some of our organizational changes.

In other words, Brad did more than motivate, inspire, and make us laugh. (Though he did all of those things exceptionally well.) He helped get our people back on track, ready to work, and ready to move where we need to go.

If you are looking for a speaker who will be the highlight of the conference AND help your organization with specific ways to improve morale and attitude and increase organizational productivity, Brad Montgomery is a perfect choice.

I recommend him without reservation. Hire him; you’ll be glad you did.

Call me if I can answer specific questions about Brad. (Or if you need a farm loan.)
USDA South Dakota
A. Claeys
Farm Loan Chief – South Dakota

Thanks So Much USDA!  I had a blast in South Dakota!

Are you looking for a speaker for your meeting or convention. Go Here To Contact Me.

Brad Montgomery
South Dakota Speaker, Farm Speaker, Fan of the USDA

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Ok, not totally.  But wait until you read this true story:

I was recently at a huge event in Florida — 450 professionals brought in from around the country – to be their closing motivational keynote speaker.  Nice.  They asked me to include all expenses in my contract to make it easier for them.  Fine.  No sweat.    (Can you tell that I’m leaving even the industry off to make sure I don’t step on any client toes? :)

My spot as the closing speaker was immediately following a boxed lunch.  After the morning session, the attendees grabbed a box lunch, went to their seats, ate… and waited for – well – me.

I got my gear set, was all-systems-go with the audio visual team, and had chatted with the big boss (who by the way had hired me two times in the past.)  So far, everything is easy and fun.

But here is where it gets hinky.  I was about to grab a box lunch… I was starving and was needed calories before I spoke for an hour and a half  … when I casually asked  the meeting planner if I could have a sandwich.  I asked her knowing it was a formality.  Of course she would feed her speaker.   I nearly didn’t ask.   

I was wrong.  She said, “Oh no, those are for the participants.”  I thought she was joking.  “You’re kidding, right?”    I honestly thought she was joking about not feeding me.

“No, we have accounted for all of the lunches, and they are for the registered attendees only.”  I was dumbfounded.  I wanted to say, “Well then I’d like to register.”  But all I could come up with was a clumsy, “But I’m your closing speaker.”  

“Sorry,” she said.  I was amazed.  With 450 people there, there just HAD to be ONE extra turkey sandwich.  And did she realize what it meant to me and her meeting to turn me down?

So I just said, “Ok, I’ll need to go get some food.” I left her and 4 tables piled high with ready-made lunches and left in search of a quick sandwich.  There were two restarurants in the hotel, but after talking to their hostesses it was clear that I wouldn’t have time to order there.  I eventually ended up at sandwich place next to the hotel and bought myself a — you guessed it —  turkey sandwich.  (Ironic, no?)

By the time I found this place, ordered, waited, wolfed down the sandwich, and made my way backturkey sandwich for the professional speaker to the convention area the meeting planner was in a panic. “Where were you?”  Again, I was dumbstruck.  I didn’t have anything graceful to say, so I just came out with a, “I had to go find some food.”

She looked surprised.  Apparently her other speakers never need fuel before they speak.  We walked back towards the meeting room and passed what was now a single table piled high with turkey sandwich box lunches.  She saw me look at them:  “I guess there were some left after all.”

I was silent.   But inside I was somewhere between laughing and crying. 

What’s the point?  I can tell you it isn’t the $8.67 I spent on my sandwich.  My point is that this woman was responsible for an event that cost a gazillion dollars and she threw her keynote speaker off-balance because of a turkey sandwich.  I didn’t care about the money, I cared that because she was counting her pennies I was inconvenienced, and because of that I wasn’t fully in the game.  Instead of eating with the attendees, getting the latest scoop on the convention, and having a chance to go over my program notes I was rushing around trying to find calories that were within reach the whole time.  Maddening. 

Normally I eat with my audience because that’s where I get the last-minute scuttlebutt.  That’s where I hear about the most recent stresses, the talk of the meeting or convention, and that’s where I often write some of my best jokes.  Not this time. 

Instead of getting myself psyched up for doing a good job for her, I was trying to make it back to the hotel on time.

More irony:  The meeting planner was off balance, nervous and upset because her speaker had vanished.   Both of us — and the entire audience — would have been better served if I was given a sandwich.

[Hey, don’t worry.  The keynote was fun and well-received — if I do say so myself.  It was a great audience and I’ve done this keynote thing a bunch.  It went great.  But why in the world did this planner make it so hard?]

Message to meeting planners:  if you are hiring a speaker, do your best to set them at ease.  You don’t have to pamper us, (though we love that more than you’ll guess) but it is a good investment to remove as many headaches for us as you can.  You want us to be 100% when we hit your platform.  So make it easy for us to rock.  Oh, and by the way, buy us that sandwich.

Are you looking to HIRE  a keynote speaker?  Contact me here. (I’ll even bring my own sandwich…just give me warning. :)

Brad Montgomery
Motivational Keynote Speaker, Lover of Meeting Planners, Fan of Turkey Sandwiches

PS.  I asked my client  — not the meeting planner but the client — if I could tell this story from the stage.  I gave him a brief summary, told him why I thought it was funny and how I thought that there was a lesson in this story for his specific group.  He declined and admitted that it made sense but the meeting planner was “highly strung” and he didn’t think she could take it.  Oh… telling that story from the stage would have been funny!

PPS.  Ever had a similar experience?   Would you be so kind as to leave it in a comment?

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This cartoon cracked me up — and makes a legitimate point about comedians.

Sure, to be a great comedian or comedian speaker you have to have:

• Great Material
• Great Timing
• Appropriate Topis for Any Given Audience.

But most of all, you have to have confidence.  Audiences know right away when we are psyched-out and insecure.   It makes them feel uncomfortable, and really brings down our performance and ratings.

The hard part is that this confidence is nearly impossible to teach.  In my opinion, it just comes after years of experience and thousands — yes, thousands — of performances.

New to comedy? Just keep it up!   

Looking for a comedian speaker for your meeting or convention?  Consider me.*

Brad Montgomery
Comedian, Business Speaker, and Hyena-fobe
 (“Hey mom, I made up a word again!”

* Unless your audience is comprised of hyenas.  In which case I’ll pass.

I’m part of the National Speakers Association, and some of the Certified Speaking Professionals recently had a e-conversation that started with this great question:

Who do you THINK (you do not have to be right!) is the most expensive keynoter on the market today?
Here are some of the best responses:

  • I’d go with Bill Clinton. I understand he’s a million dollars.When he isn’t speaking for free.   — Janelle Barlow  
     
  • One speaker guessed Donald Trump at $1 Million an hour – 3 hour contract.
  • Paris Hilton was guessed by another speaker pal, also at $1 million for an hour.
  • Motivational speaker Warren Evans CSP from Toronto, Canada wrote   “Just recently talking with a planner overseas for whom I am doing a gig  this spring. She tells me thought of bringing Lance Armstrong in, but he wants $750,000 for an hour.   If she can find a sponsor, however, to do a tour . . . he’ll do 4 days, or was it 5?, for a flat million.  Richard Branson is $150,000: same event. Course, these are US dollars, so it’s not as expensive as it sounds . . .
     
  • Motivational Speaker Scott Mckain added this:  This isn’t a current speaker, but legend has it that the most money ever paid for a keynote went to Art Linkletter.  Walt Disney asked Linkletter to be the speaker and emcee of the opening of Disneyland in July 1955. However, Disney had spent every nickel on the attraction, and didn’t have the money to pay Linkletter to speak. So, Linkletter said he’d give the opening address for the park — if Disney would give him all of the sales of film and camera accessories for twenty-five years. Disney agreed.  I’ve never seen a precise dollar amount — but, can you even begin to fathom how many rolls of film, flash bulbs, and other pre-digital items were sold at DISNEYLAND over a quarter of a century? Has to be the highest paid presentation of all time…   And, by the way…Linkletter is still speaking! 

But my favorite answer came from keynote speaker Jeffrey Hansler 

  • Well, the most expensive keynoter was the guy that charged $2000 and then destroyed the entire purpose of the meeting – now that was expensive….

So what do YOU think? What is the most expensive keynote speaker?

If you want a keynote speaker who can make a difference for your organization and don’t have the $1 million for Paris Hilton, perhaps you’ll consider me? Contact me directly here.

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My pal Tim Gard just submitted this to a newsletter! Great job Tim.

(The following is an excerpt from an aricle in the NSA Humor Peg newsletter.

So how do you sell the value of humor to a client? Why would someone pay for a humorist vs. a content speaker?

“I (Tim Gard) wrote an article a couple of years ago about the difference between an entertainer and a speaker. The first thing you have to have in mind is which of those you are going to be. Either one is okay, you just need to pick one and go with it. When people contact me, it is not necessarily to have me be a humorist. I’m contacted when they need someone to kill at 7am, or close out a conference on a high note. Most businesses that hire me want take-home value, very clean humor, and they want their folks to be energized. The bottom line is you have to find what the audience’s pain is and how to solve it with humor. ”

Nicely said Tim!

Do YOU think humor has a place in business? I sure do. Check out this excerpt form a humor newsletter from Humorist Roz Trieber.

“Research demonstrates there is a significant correlation between humor and leadership effectiveness (Priest and Swain, 2002). Organizational culture, in the military and elsewhere, supports the use of humor by leaders in appropriate ways. The United States Army leadership manual describes, “Having a good sense of humor” as a valuable character trait for leaders (Department of Army, 1983). It was found that cadets at the United States Military Academy who use humor as a coping strategy were less likely to quit or make mistakes. In addition, humor employed by managers and leaders achieve three specific ends: 1) stress reduction in the workplace, 2) helping employees understand management concerns by enhancing communication patterns, and 3) motivating followers (Davis and Kleiner, 1989). Good leaders who use good-natured jest put others at ease. Those who cannot laugh or joke about their imperfections or personal failings are correlated with other characteristics of “bad leaders,” A majority of good leaders are shown to have quick wit, see the point of jokes, maintain group morale through extraverted humor vs. mean spirited humor, have infectious laughs, and tell humorous satires in dialect (Priest and Swain, 2002).

What this really means is that there is improved communication with less misunderstanding, and increased desire to come to work, and an increase in creativity and productivity (Decker and Rotondo, 2001). In summary, humor in the workplace promotes physical and mental health, fosters mental flexibility, and acts as a social lubricant (Morreall, 1983). ”

Thanks Roz. Awesome Work.

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Few things create a more vivid perception of an executive than his speaking ability. The higher execs rise in an organization, the more frequently they are called upon to address others. Ironically, little or no training is given hapless executives to develop this skill. If they become good at public speaking, it is either a gift of genetics, they get lucky, or a combination of both.

A disregard for time | Unclear purpose | Inadequate preparation | Failure to capture attention | Pomposity | Boredom | False endings

Increasingly leaders are realizing their need for skills development that falls outside of what is typically offered by their organizations. That is one reason why executive coaching has become so popular. Often one of the primary areas coaches focus on is communication, both interpersonal and public.

As a professional who makes his living giving speeches and seminars, I’ve sat through hundreds if not thousands of executive presentations. More often than not, the speeches I’ve heard businesspeople make were less than memorable.

And far too often the presentations were painful, not only for the speaker to give, but for the audience to feign interest through.

The majority of executive presenters, even those who flopped dramatically, were well-intentioned. Nobody sets out to destroy her credibility with a bad presentation. So why do people fail in spite of noble intentions?

Intention requires technique to be successfully communicated. It doesn’t matter how well you want to hit the golf ball. Only good form and practiced skill allow you to consistently do so. Public speaking is no different.

I am puzzled why so many seem to think that speaking well in front of an audience is a natural skill. Public speaking, like all skills, is developed. The more often one speaks, the better one becomes if–and this is a big if–he focuses on eliminating undesirable behaviors and developing needed ones.

7 Flops

The fastest gain that can made in improving your ability to speak well is to eliminate those things that cause disaster. While I’ve observed great creativity in flopping, there are seven common reasons why executive speakers fail. I’ll explain those reasons and what to do about them.

1. A disregard for time

History has no record of anyone who gave a speech that was too short, but we’ve all been in audiences when the speaker stopped speaking on what seemed like a different day than he had begun.

This problem–speaking too long or taking more time than allotted–seems to be epidemic among high level business leaders. Most meeting planners value their job too much to be candid with an executive and tell him that he completely destroyed the agenda by speaking for an hour when he was scheduled to speak for 15 minutes. And no employee is going to complain to the executive’s face about talking way too long.

Being self-employed allows me the luxury of being totally honest: speaking longer than planned is rude. It suggests to the audience that the speaker and her presentation are more important than anyone or anything else on the program. The length of a presentation shouldn’t be a function of title or power, but a function of how long the exec agreed to talk. If you say you need ten minutes, quit after 10 minutes. If you need more time, negotiate for it in advance. But don’t take the next three speakers’ time because you either don’t pay attention to your watch or you are too arrogant to realize that the high point of the meeting just might not be listening to you speak twice as long as expected.

Start on time and stop on time. Not only will your audience respect you for it, but it will prove that you respect your audience.

2. Unclear purpose

Here’s the million dollar question of any presentation: what’s the point?

Executives who don’t have clear objectives for their presentation usually achieve little.

Heaven help you if your objective is “to inform.” Duh? Every speech informs, whether by design or by default. Attempting only to inform is aiming too low. Why not use the opportunity to motive, inspire or encourage? Why not take

advantage of your chance to share a vision or create camaraderie?

Design your speech the way the pros do. Begin by asking, “At the end of this presentation, what do I want listeners to think, feel and do? Good presenters speak to the head, the heart and the hands. Challenging people with lot of information of limited practical application is more frustrating that inspiring.

If you can’t clearly identify a worthwhile purpose for the presentation, you probably shouldn’t be making it.

And it doesn’t hurt to begin with an overt statement of purpose: “The reason I’m speaking to you today is…” It may not be clever, but it will significantly increase that odds that you’ll fulfill your purpose if you enlist the audience early on.

What about speeches that someone else writes for you? It is critically important that a speech writer have access to you and your ideas. Even the best speech writer isn’t clairvoyant. Your speech will only be written as well as the input you provide. This is not the time for “hands-off” delegation.

3. Inadequate Preparation

There is no excuse for “winging it.” The best speakers are always–and I mean it literally–prepared for what they say, even if their demeanor suggests otherwise.

That brilliant toe-in-the-sand presenter you heard that came up with the wonderful analogy and spectacular quotes “on the spot” really didn’t. She planned carefully not only what they were going to say, but how they would appear “off the cuff.”

Here’s how to tell if a speaker hasn’t prepared: he doesn’t say anything important. To make best use of your time and the audience’s time, think through and practice what you’ll say.

If you saw a Broadway show where none of the actors had practiced in advance, you would demand your money back.

Too bad audiences don’t get the same privilege.

And please don’t ever beginning by saying, “I really haven’t thought about what I’m going to say…” There are no bragging rights to that. If you ever find yourself tempted make that statement, at least be honest and say, “I’m a goober and I’m going to waste your time.”

Henri Nouwen, the Catholic mystic of the late twentieth, was once frustrated as he prepared for an important speech. His insight? Live prepared, rather than simply trying to prepare. Maybe this is what Tom Peters was alluding to when he instructed managers to have a “stump speech” with the same three or four most important messages ready to give and give again at every opportunity.

4. Failure to capture attention

The scarcest resource in the world used to be time; today it is attention.

The average listener is bombarded with messages from many different sources. From email to radio to voicemail to cell phones, everybody is trying to tell us something, and your attempt to give a speech is just one more bombardment

That’s why what you say and how you say it had better grab the audience’s attention right out of the shoot. You don’t have time to “warm up.” (“Thank you for inviting me to be here today. It is indeed my pleasure to address you. What a great meeting it has been so far. Blah blah blah blah blah.”)

As my friend and high-powered speech coach Ron Arden says, “In the theater, you’ll never see an actor warm-up on the audience. They warm-up backstage.”

So forget the hackneyed concept of warming up the audience. Hit them square between the eyes with something that will break their preoccupation with what they need to pick up at the grocery store on the way home from work.

Most importantly, make your remarks relevant. Post moderns are less interested with the question “Is it true?” and more interested in the question “How does it affect me?” Sure, you need to be intellectually honest to prove your points, but never forget to prove that your message matters to the listener.

5. Pomposity

Ego-driven leaders are more concerned with what followers think about them than they are with what followers do because of them.

But you don’t necessarily have to be arrogant to be pompous. Sometimes it happens accidentally when a speaker confuses impressing a listener with influencing her.

Impressing people is, for the most part, a head-game: it changes what they think of us. Influencing people is a behavioral game: it changes what people do because of us.

A preoccupation with self is deadly. Self-absorbed speakers present to get their needs met, rather than meet the needs of the audience. The audience instantly recognizes it.

One of the best kept secrets in speaking is this: the audience wants you to do well. Everyone knows how painful it is to watch a speaker bomb in front of others, so instinctively, the audience is pulling for you. And they’ll cut you a lot of slack–allow for mispronunciations and other mistakes–if you are sincerely interested in them.

If you speak down to them or try to blatantly impress them, they’ ll turn on you like a pack of rabid dogs. It won’t be as obvious as the rabid dogs, but beyond their polite or at least neutral nonverbals, they’ll be mentally dismantling you for being a pompous ass.

You wouldn’t be asked to speak unless someone believed that you have credibility, and something to say. That is enough. Don’t undo that assumption through efforts to prove your status to others.

6. Boredom

“Isn’t life a thousand times too short to bore ourselves?” That wasn’t uttered by a tired audience member, but it could have been. Helen Keller said it.

An audience today contains many people who were raised on MTV. That means they spent formative years watching music videos that often contained 150 images in the course of a minute. Watching a talking head is, for them, about as stimulating as watching software load.

Nobody ever flops who entertains. Don’t get me wrong: to be simply entertaining is not in itself a worthwhile goal for an executive presenter, but is sure beats the alternative, which is to be boring. Sell the sizzle and the steak.

Great restaurants know that the presentation of cuisine is as important as its’ preparation. Presentation and perception go hand-in-hand.

“Amusement” comes from two words meaning “not to ponder.” “Entertainment”, on the other hand, is engaging. The value of entertainment for a speaker is that it mentally engages listeners. I’ve found the best way to educate is to slip good ideas in on the wings of entertainment.

And by the way, telling a joke is risky. When it works, it works well. When it fails, nothing fails worse. The best way to avoid groaners is to use humor in such a way that it illustrates your point. If the audience doesn’t laugh, the illustration is still of value. And if they get a chuckle out of the humor, that’s just icing on the cake.

7. False Endings

Remember this variation of a familiar acronym: FEAR is False Endings Appearing Real.

I’ve seen it a hundred times. A speaker starts to conclude, even tells the audience of his intent, and then tells a pithy, witty story. The audience responds favorably. The speaker gets a rush. “Wow, they liked that. I’ve got an even better story,” he thinks to himself. And then he ends again, with another story/quote/challenge/admonition/etc. Like a junkie who has just had a good fix, the speaker keeps ending, until there is no positive response, but rather visible signs of disgust. By then, it is too late.

You can only effectively conclude once, yet I’ve seen executives conclude over and over. Each false ending weakens the message that was in front of it.

The false ending nightmare usually begins with these words, “In conclusion….” That triggers hope in the audience’s mind. “Hey, it’s almost over!” They expect you to wrap up quickly.

In my mind that means either summarizing or making a final point. Several points, or the introduction of new points, is not a conclusion.

A simple rule to remember: a good ending happens only once.

The beginning of excellence is the elimination of foolishness. You can bump up your speaking performance by analyzing your last presentation by asking these seven questions:
Did I stick to my allotted time?
Did I develop and present purposefully?
Was I thoroughly prepared?
Did I capture attention at the very beginning?
Did I positively influence listeners?
Was I appropriately entertaining, or at least not boring?
Did I end only once?

An affirmative answer to each of those questions virtually guarantees that the next time you make a presentation, you won’t be a flop. Not only will you be flop-proof, most likely you’ll be perceived as an articulate and effective speaker.

by Mark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE

Mark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE is a professional speaker published in the areas of leadership, change management, customer service and teamwork. He works with business organizations who want to reach the next level of success and individuals who want to perform at their best. You can email him at [email protected], phone him at (800) 650-3343 or visit his Web site.