Wednesday, March 28, 2018

"A template for your next impromptu walk"/ Dale Morgan

Nov. 27, 2017 "A template for your next impromptu walk": Today I found this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail:

Impromptu speaking is critical to work. So be prepared.

That sounds like a contradiction: How can you be prepared for something impromptu? But Judith Humphrey, founder of the Toronto-based leadership communication consultancy The Humphrey Group, says you can and should be prepared for the many impromptu-speaking opportunities you encounter.

Preparation includes being knowledgeable on subjects you will face, learning how to read an audience, and becoming adept at using her script template that allows you – in five minutes or five seconds – to outline a powerful impromptu pitch. "Impromptu is not winging it. It's preparing yourself to be spontaneous," she says in an interview.

Ms. Humphrey, a former speechwriter, wrote her first book, Speaking as a Leader, about formal speeches in 2012. But these days, she sees the impetus for impromptu speaking growing as organizations flatten. It used to be that top executives set out the key messages, with people in the ranks not having such opportunities or simply echoing the boss.

But today, people at all levels are sending important messages to colleagues and clients, from sales visits to chats with a co-worker walking in from the parking lot, so she tackles that in her latest book, Impromptu. "You need an ability to organize your thoughts in the moment. Often people, when they start speaking, don't know what they want to say.

That's why you hear a lot of 'ahhs' or 'What I meant to say was ...'" she says in an interview.

It starts with knowing your stuff, from subject and product information to general information, to experiential knowledge. In her book, she mentions the viral video of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explaining quantum computing when he visited the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ont., last year.

Subject knowledge carried that day for him. In the interview, she notes how Robert Kennedy's love of poetry allowed him to quote the Greek poet Aeschylus in his moving tribute after Martin Luther King's assassination. You also should be able to draw from your experiences, such as comments various clients have made about your product.

It's also critical to be able to read your audience – before, during, and after a talk. Who is in the audience, and what are their needs? Are they paying attention as you speak or does their body language suggest they are confused or don't care? How did that talk go?

Her handy script template for you to follow has these components:


This is a bridge from the previous speaker or comments to you and your points. It provides some space between speakers, focus and context. Formal speeches can begin with an anecdote or joke but in an impromptu situation it's a short comment, such as, "I agree with the last point."


This is your main point, ideally one idea presented in a single sentence. It should be engaging, carry your convictions, and be positive. "It's so important to know what you're saying and to say it well.

To say it well, you need to get to the point quickly," Ms. Humphrey says. Too often we struggle, taking a number of sentences to find our point. She says in some contexts, such as talking to a client, you should know the message already. If not, sometimes you can delay speaking, while others talk and you figure out your crystallized comment.

If asked a question and you find yourself struggling for the nugget answer, she suggests responding with a grabber and then pausing until you can clarify the exact message. "The pause seems long to the speaker but not the audience.

A pause can make you look thoughtful," Ms. Humphrey says. And on balance, be positive. If the situation you are addressing is negative, slide into the positive aspect: What can be done to improve.


You now need two to four points that back your main message. They may be reasons why the statement is correct, ways to achieve the course of action you are proposing, or actions that flow from the situation you have outlined. Build your case, but don't go overboard on the number of supporting points you offer.


A formal speech ends with a summary. But an impromptu speech is short and there is no need to repeat. Instead, you end with a call to action. "If you turn the message into action you will have led. This is essentially leadership – getting people to believe, move, achieve and perform at a higher level. It's about action," Ms Humphrey says.

She believes most people fail at impromptu speaking because they believe they don't have to be scripted. So be prepared for your next impromptu talk, keeping her template in mind. Find the essence of your message, lay out the proof, and take people with you.

The Ladder: Dale Morgan: Today I found this article in the Globe and Mail:

Dale Morgan, 42, is the CEO of Astound, a design and fabrication company that creates exhibits and experiences for trade shows, brands and live events. Astound has 250 employees, with offices in Toronto, Oakville, Ont., and Las Vegas.

I grew up in Burlington [Ont.], the youngest of three brothers. I was class clown all through high school, not really that great of a student. Not because I wasn't capable – it was more that if I didn't have to do something, I wouldn't.

I had one binder and never had a textbook, I always borrowed a pen. I played basketball all through high school, so I was more of a gym rat than a student. But I was an artist. I did a lot of drawing, always had a good eye for detail.

A friend was an installer for a trade show company, and they were sending him all over the world for trade shows. He would send me postcards from Africa or Japan, and I was like, that sounds like a lot of fun. So right out of high school, I started working for the same company.

I ended up meeting a lot of people on the road by walking the show floor, and seeing much larger, more elaborate exhibits. The tipping point – when I realized I could do something better – was when they sent me to a semiconductor show in Taiwan.

I met an experienced guy in the trade-show industry and we came up with this idea that we would serve the Silicon Valley companies exhibiting in Asia, because it was a real struggle to do that at the time. We had two separate companies, but we'd work together and help each other.

I decided it could be a lot more than just consulting for a single industry. I founded Astound on my own in 2001 at my house in Burlington, in my second bedroom.

When the economic downturn of 2008 happened, that was the very worst of times. We were really heavily invested in the semiconductor industry and suddenly, it was gone. Within a period of two weeks, almost all of our clients told us they aren't doing any more shows. And here we are, 40 people at this point, in a big office.

We had to scale back and let most people go. The bright spot was that I was watching the semiconductor industry to see where they were going and they were going into solar. I thought, "This is a global trend we're going to follow."

From there, I thought, "What's hot? What are the global trends?" Mobile phones. So I went to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona with no clients just to walk the show and check it out. And now it's one of our biggest industries.

I have always been a news junkie and I keep my eye on what's going on in the world. So the company is really built on that idea – digging deep into an industry, understanding it, then becoming an invaluable partner to our clients, rather than a localized vendor.

Now we're at a really exciting transition phase. We're building a 350,000-square-foot facility in Las Vegas, which will make us the largest exhibit builder in Las Vegas. Trade shows and exhibits are 50 per cent of our business, the other side is doing anything from architectural mill-work to interactive engagement pieces to pop-up retail.

The challenge is being able to adapt as the business scales, and being able to step outside designing and building experiences to realize that in order to scale, the business needs proper systems and infrastructure. It needs the right people in all these different positions, and those people need to evolve and change.

To be a good leader, I think you need honesty and transparency. There aren't two sides to me. I'm the same guy drinking beers as giving a speech or talking to the media.

My advice to entrepreneurs is worry about culture first and set the tone for what kind of company you're going to be. Knowing what your values are and communicating that from the get-go is really important.

In the beginning, "Have fun" was in our mission statement. The event industry has to be fun. It's hard work, it's a high-demand industry, so people have to be wired that way. And by presenting our values the way we do, really clearly from the beginning, it acts as a filter for the right people. Without that love of what we do, doing it would not be possible.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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