How To Win Over Your Audience in One Minute or Less

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Have you ever been in a meeting and thought, “What’s the point of this presentation…?” Or perhaps you were at a conference where the speaker rambled on and on without saying much of anything? I heard a sermon this summer where for the first 18 minutes the speaker told the audience that speaking wasn’t his forte.

I wanted to walk out of the room. I would never get those 18 minutes back.

If you are a communicator-a coach, CEO, teacher, minister, team leader-you want to make sure you connect with your audience right from the start, and hold their attention for long enough to get your message across clearly and memorably.

I have found that there is one sure fire way to get people sitting up, eyes glued to me, eager to listen:

I tell them a story.

Many people introduce a topic with a joke. Jokes are fine, but there is a lot that can go wrong with a joke. You may misread your audience and their sense of humor. You may mess up a punch line (I’ve done this once or twice), or deliver it without the proper dramatic pauses. Often a joke feels canned, or worse, forced.

However, when you tell a story, especially about a situation that you have been in personally, people take interest. And they are more prone to resonate with you if you are self deprecating.

When talking about the power of telling the truth, I opened with a story about a time I told a lie and got caught in the act by my mom (she saw the whole thing unfold through the kitchen window). Oops. Every person in the audience has told a whopper at one point, and they immediately think back to those moments even as I tell my own story. Now we are all on the same page, and the audience resonates with my weakness. Most often that’s what makes it funny and memorable. We have all told a lie that that grew and got us into hot water.

Now you’re no longer pointing a finger from an ivory tower, you are leading by example. Everyone in the room lowers their guard, and opens up to the main point of the message, the importance of truth telling. Perhaps without even realizing it, they are cheering you on and hanging on every word.
Mission Accomplished.

Want to win your audience and communicate more effectively?

Lead with your weakness. It will become your greatest strength.

Gold Medal Performance

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Like millions of people around the globe, my TV consumption in the last two weeks has consisted of watching world class athletes compete at the Olympic Games in Rio. Normally I would not be caught dead watching hammer throw, team pursuit or race walking, but every four years national pride and curiosity take over and I find myself riveted by the dedication and devotion of these finely tuned athletes competing on the planet’s largest stage.

It’s inspiring.

I wish I were athletically skilled. But I am not. I can barely hold my own in a game of flag football or baseball. I can fake it…but I’ll never make it.

However, I have skills in other areas such as communication. And it makes me wonder what my potential is and how far I can go by dedicating myself to growth and development daily? Who might I inspire to become better than they thought they could be? Who might I challenge to live for Someone and something greater than themselves?

It can be easy for those of us watching in a comfy chair at home with a bag of chips and can of soda at our side to dream of having a gold medal placed around our neck and the national anthem played in front of adoring fans.

But there’s so much we don’t see.

We don’t see the daily grind of getting up at 5:00am for a high intensity interval run followed by a two-hour gruelling workout with weights and plyometrics. And that’s just a warm up. They haven’t even started working on the technique for their chosen sport. We don’t see the commitment of eating clean and going to bed early when friends stay out late partying. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success says that in order to become a phenom at something there is 10,000 hours of practice needed. That’s roughly three hours EVERY day for 10 years.

In short, when we watch the Olympics we see the glory, and not the grind.

But ask any medalist, whether gold, silver or bronze, and they will insist the glory is worth the grind. Every time.

Are you willing to go through the grind to be all you can be and to shape others to be all they can be?

Here are three things I do regularly to ensure that I am developing as a communicator. 30 minutes of speaking is preceded by hours of the following:

1. Study. I read every day. I read the Bible, and I read books about theology and Christian living. I also read novels, history, and various magazine articles. I even read the back of cereal boxes. When something pops out at me I write it down and store it for later. I underline and make notes and my Kindle keeps all my highlights and notes on my own web page for later access.

2. Watch. I like to watch other communicators. I watch and listen to people like Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel and Judah Smith to understand how they formulate their messages and how they use their own unique voice and style to communicate effectively. Most importantly, each time I speak I go back and listen to my message. It is often painful, but I have grown because of it. I have wiped out some annoying ticks in my speaking. Most importantly, I have found my own voice. I love Stanley and the countless other exceptional preachers out there but I know I will be most effective when I am the best Michael Voll I can be.

3. Ask. I regularly get unfiltered feedback from other communicators that I trust and who have qualities I want to emulate and learn from in my own speaking. This can be hard to digest at times, but it has made me far more aware and successful, and has weeded out poor habits and blind spots that I would never have been able to see on my own.

I am not sure how many hours I have invested into becoming a better communicator, but this one thing I know-I have not arrived at my destination. There is always more to learn, and there is always something that can be sharpened.

My goal is to “Communicate for Change,” and if more people can experience a change for the better because of the work I put in when no one else is looking, it is worth it. That is my gold medal.

So what do you need to spend time on today? Don’t put it off any longer! The world needs you at your best!

The Most Excellent Way to Lead: Discover the Heart of Great Leadership

Perry Noble, the Lead Pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, South Carolina has written a simple, yet insightful book on leadership that should help leaders across any number of disciplines.

The premise of the book is that the most excellent way to lead is by love. Noble contends that 1 Corinthians 13, known affectionately as the ‘love chapter’ (pun intended), is really all about leadership. He makes the point that the Apostle Paul has been speaking about leadership in the preceding and following chapters, and he gives an example of what this kind of leadership should look like in chapter 13. If you replace the word love with leader, you will find a whole slew of leadership traits such as patience, kindness, not easily angered, and keeps not record of wrongs to describe the traits every good leader should possess.

Noble draws on personal mistakes, failures as well as successes and victories to illustrate each point (i.e. love is kind) in a memorable and disarming way. He doesn’t make himself out as a guru of leadership, but as a learner who has been used by God do some pretty amazing things.

At the end of each chapter are questions to be answered personally as well as questions that could be asked of any leadership team. I have been going through the book with a friend and it has inspired some challenging conversations and growth.

Pick up the book. Then read and apply the lessons to your life and team. It will be a good reminder that leadership is more than a position and power suit and will have you well on your way to becoming an excellent leader.

Leadership is love.

Three Takeaways From Cheery Chewy

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The Internet blew up over the weekend with the Facebook Live video of Candace Payne donning her Chewbacca mask while behind the wheel of her car. This simple video that was likely intended for family and a few friends, went viral, and soon over 150 million people had watched, shared and giggled till they almost wet themselves at the woman with the infectious laugh.

Several times I saw the video in my news feed and just as many times I quickly scrolled over it, thinking that it was not likely worth my time. Finally, after I saw a boatload of friends comment how hilarious the video was, I figured “Why not?” and hit play.

I had tears in my eyes in a few short minutes.

More importantly, I felt like I had hit re-start on my day.

Here are three lessons I learned from this fun-loving mom.

1) Laughter is always the best medicine
When you are feeling down, laughter provides new perspective and relief like nothing else. On some of my worst days I have been turned around in my perspective from a well-timed joke or YouTube video.
When Job is in the throes of grief he is assured by one of his friends that “God will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy” (Job 8:21). While his friend may not have turned out to be a great companion, he did speak truth. I think Job experienced a lot of joy in the second half of his life.

Plus, if you laugh long and hard enough, it’s like doing hundreds of crunches. Now that’s a fun workout!

2) Laughter is infectious
There are a lot of things that can “rub of” onto others in our lives such as a bad attitude, an annoying habit, or an ill-conceived political viewpoint.
These are all negative examples, but on a very positive note, nothing is more infectious than laughter. I don’t have scientific data to back this viewpoint up, but it seems to hold true in everyday life. When I showed the video to a friend, Candace’s laugh blended with my friends laugh soon had me laughing hysterically.

If you want to rub off on others, make it with a laugh.

3) Joy provides strength
When it comes to getting through some of the roughest patches of life, joy = strength. Actually, specifically “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Joy that comes from a relationship with the Lord is what will get us through every rough patch of grief and despair, and even a few grey, colorless days. I found out this week that Candace Payne is a follower of Jesus and serves on the worship team in her local church. I’m sure that on many occasions she has drawn strength from the joy that comes from having a relationship with Jesus, the Giver of all Joy.

Buy a Chewbacca mask if you want, but no matter what you do, tap into the power of laughter today.

You just might make someone’s day.

Speaking at Broadway Church, June 19th

megachurch-6I am excited to announce that I will be making my way back to the place where I got my start in full-time ministry, Broadway Church. On Fathers Day (Sunday, June 19th) I will be speaking at all three services (9:00, 11:15am and 6:00pm) on the topic: Three Keys to a Fresh Start after Suffering a Broken Heart. I look forward to seeing many friends from the past and meeting new people. Hope to see you there!

I Challenge You to Grow!

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Stagnant, tired, outdated, irrelevant. These indictments are a death toll to today’s leader.

So how can we avoid the trap of losing touch, the worst nightmare of a leader?

Tackle something big.

The only way we grow is when we get pushed out of our comfort zones and force ourselves (or get forced) to do something that seems larger than we can handle. And that’s the point. It is bigger than us. We will need help, we will need to stretch and grow in order to accomplish the goal.

I have been in a bit of a rut with my training lately. I am still going to the gym 3-5 times a week, but I haven’t been pushing myself to grow. I am just maintaining.

Or more likely losing ground.

Then I did a few workouts with some younger guys. I wanted to show them what I was made of. I dug deep, kept adding weight with full reps, and left my heart out on the gym floor. Now I sit writing this article and every muscle in my body is sore. But it isn’t the sore that is a sign of a strained or torn muscle, it is of a trained, stretched muscle in repair mode. In other words, this kind of sore ensures me there will be muscular growth. Every ache reminds me that I challenged my muscles. And it makes me smile.

You may be in a job where the work is similar each day or there are consistent patterns throughout the year that you have grown accustomed to, and may even feel like you have “perfected” that particular process or event.

You haven’t!

Don’t give in to the lie that you have reached some sort of ceiling in your workplace because you haven’t. There is always something that can be tweaked, improved or even axed in favour of something that is new and will serve your customer or client base more effectively. You can always reach higher.

If you are doing this consistently at work and still need more growth in your life, tackle something daunting at home. Like an improvement project that is both mentally challenging and physically rewarding, such as painting that room or building that addition on the deck. You have no idea where to start? Go to YouTube, ask the guy at the Home Depot in the lumber section. These guys know what they are doing and will take time with you. Whatever you decide to do, consult an expert and learn the right way the first time.

For me, I have embraced writing. It is a pain in the butt sometimes, but it is also extremely rewarding and I have grown in leaps and bounds in my clarity and confidence as a Christian leader because of it. Sure it’s hard, but anything worth putting out there (like that new deck) is going to require a bit of sweat equity.

So if you have been flat lining for a few months or years, it’s time to break out of the rut.

I challenge you to grow.

You can do it, and others will thank you that you did.

Now I’m off to paint the inside of our house. I guess writing isn’t so hard after all!

Over the Hill?

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Do you feel old? Perhaps you think your best years are behind you?

When I was a kid, forty seemed like a lifetime away.

Forty years old. Wow. That was old.

I went to a few birthday parties for friends’ parents where plastic pink flamingos were strategically placed on front lawns, helium balloons proclaimed ‘over the hill,’ gifts of adult diapers and Metamucil were exchanged and birthday cards mocked something to the effect of ‘being a dinosaur.’

At those parties I just remember eating cake and thinking “I can’t wait to hit double digits.” Ten was a pivotal age for a nine year old. Ten was a big boy.

Fast-forward thirty years and here I am, an over-the-hill dinosaur (without the pink flamingos thankfully!)

And yet, I don’t feel old. In fact I feel better than I did when I was thirty. I can run longer, lift as much and I’m wearing a size smaller jeans. Bonus!

There have been some changes that I don’t like. My hairline is receding and could use some reseeding, and lines are developing on my forehead and around my eyes, mostly from laughing at dumb jokes (including my own). And I ache a lot more from old injuries in my lower back and knees. But it hasn’t slowed me down. I feel as if I’m just getting up to full speed.

In the book of Exodus a man named Caleb gives us all a stellar example of aging with grace. He had been faithful to God for his whole life and now eighty-five years old, he asked his friend Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, to give him his inheritance of land. This inheritance came with a catch-he had to fight for it and displace the people who were living there already. And most ironic part about this whole story is that rather than asking for the land that would be most easy to conquer, he asked for the hill country (14:6-15).

Fighting on uneven ground is never easy. You are always at a disadvantage, fighting an uphill battle. Was this a hill Caleb really wanted to die on? Yes. This grizzled man of God wanted to fight another battle up a hill rather than be written off as “over-the-hill.”

I am not afraid to get older, because I know that as long as I keep dreaming and doing, God will give me the strength to be more than a conqueror.

So today, if you are feeling old, tired and sorry for yourself, look no further than to the example of Caleb. That is what I am choosing to do.

My best days are yet to come.

And so are yours.

 

Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness

In Seven Men, author Eric Metaxas gives a brief, yet thorough look into the lives of George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles W. Colson. Some of the men are well-known by almost everyone, while others have been forgotten or lived on the fringes of society. The common thread among them all is their devotion to God and a legacy left by their acts of sacrifice.

Each chapter is devoted to one of these men, and they are easily readable in one sitting. This is a fantastic book to study and discuss with a small group (that’s what my book club is doing right now!). This is definitely a winner and provides a wealth of real life illustrations on the importance of character in leadership.

Open: What Happens when you Get Real, Get Honest, and Get Accountable

One of the most powerful and effective ways to stay on track personally, professionally and spiritually is to have someone trusted to walk and grow with. The writer of Proverbs tells us that “iron sharpens iron” and I have personally found that the greatest source of growth and strength for me has been a few accountability partners who are willing to ask the tough questions of my ministry, marriage, family and thought life. Craig Gross and Adam Palmer have put together a very practical and easy to read book that gives compelling reasons why accountability is necessary and how to start an accountability group/relationship.

This book is not earth-shattering in it’s information or scope, but it isn’t intended to be. It is written to motivate and compel the reader to seek out accountability for a lifetime in order to be the very best one can be. Craig Gross definitely practises what he preaches as the founder of xxxchurch.com, the accountability software X3 Watch and X3Workshops, the online sessions to overcome porn addiction.

No man is an island, and “Open” is a great reminder of this. Now open yourself up to accountability and take your personal life to new levels of honesty and freedom.