Category Archives: Speeches

Two Unforgettable Keynote Speeches and Why They Were So Good

It is that time of year when the successful, the esteemed, and the sages are orating all over the country. We’d all benefit from turning an ear to their decrees of wisdom.

2014 Graduation SpeechesThese days, we are all privy to the pearls wisdom from the elite through social media. As a result, we have on record some of the most profound and universal principles that have guided the successful for decades.

Graduation and commencements are still taking place. Bill and Melinda Gates will be speaking at Stanford in a few weeks. The first of its kind joint commencement speech will surely have some noteworthy truths shared. But for now, we have chosen these two very different speeches to glean from.

Colin Powell at High Point University

Colin Powell gave the May 3rd commencement address for High Point University. The General’s calm authority is powerful. His recent talk echoed much of his core beliefs regarding the importance of a life dedicated to service, compassion, and making the choice to be a problem solver for others.

Here are some of his words of advice for the class of 2014:

  • “Make sure you share the talent and the time and the treasure you have with others who are in greater need than you.”
  • “Go forth and raise strong families remembering that all you can ever leave behind is your reputation, your good works and your children for the next generation.”
  • “As you go through life, listen to the other side. Have your eyes and your ears and your heart open to counterviews…”
  • “If you want to save the world, start by saving just one kid. That’s what it’s all about.”

You can see General Powell’s speech here in its entirety.

Jennifer Lee at the University of New Hampshire

Jennifer Lee was the honored speaker at her alma mater, the University of New Hampshire. Who is Jennifer Lee? Lee is simply the first female director of a Walt Disney Animation Studios feature film and the first writer at any major animation studio to become a director. That is a big deal. Then she takes it up a notch and writes a little screenplay, Frozen, which goes on to win the Academy Award for the Best Animated feature film.

Looking like she may be a former model, Lee was humble and honest in her appeal to the graduating class of 2014. Like many creative people, it seems that this groundbreaking director has wrestled self-doubt and won. She shares, almost in the tone of a “12 Step meeting,” what happens when self-doubt takes root. She describes how it clouds everything you do and see. It is the opposite of wearing rose-colored glasses. Lee shares, “The lenses of self-doubt are nasty and thick, big and filthy and covered in swamp scum. They are the lenses of, ‘I’m not good enough.’”

Ms. Lee shares from her heart for nearly fifteen minutes. She takes us on her journey through adolescent and young adulthood. Her story is one that everyone can identify with on some level. All, except that blockbuster hit she has on her resume, of course!

Ultimately, Ms. Lee’s speech was worth sharing as another example of how women are respectfully breaking through ceilings. Even having the vulnerability to share authentically, in the vein of Brene Brown, is a bit revolutionary. She implores the graduates to join the revolution.

“When you are free from self-doubt, you fail better. You accept criticism and listen,” Lee told grads. “If I learned one thing, it is that self-doubt is one of the most destructive forces. It makes you defensive instead of open, reactive instead of active. Self-doubt is consuming and cruel and my hope today is that we can all collectively agree to ban it.”

Ban self-doubt? We couldn’t agree more.

There is also no doubt that there will be other great speeches given over the next few weeks that deserve to be shared. Let us know if you spot one so we can all learn from the lives of the successful.

~ Jennifer

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Filed under Colleges, Keynote Ideas, Leadership, Speeches

Checklist and Tips for a Buzz-Worthy Keynote Address

By My Web WritersThe questionnaire

The purpose of a keynote address is motivation. It’s meant to inspire and energize a crowd and to leave them ready to take your core message and put it into immediate action. The skill behind a buzz-worthy keynote address is the ability to adapt your speech to your audience, keeping it dynamic and interactive. You core message should be planned in advance and may remain the same from speech to speech, but every time to give your keynote address, it should be slightly different to account for the different audience. To help master this skill, here is a checklist of tips to review before you write or deliver your next keynote address.

Know Your Audience

First and foremost, know your audience. Be sure this is something you speak with the meeting organizer about before you craft your keynote speech. What is the age, gender, common interests, education level, etc? All of these things will help you create a compelling message that resonates with that particular group of people. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience. What is most likely to motivate you?

Ask a Rhetorical Question or Survey the Audience

This speechwriting tip is commonly recommended, but it’s with good reason! Start with a question that makes your audience think and immediately draws them into the conversation. You can either begin with a rhetorical question which is more thought provoking, but doesn’t require an answer. Or you can ask a question that requires the audience to raise their hands or shout out a response. Taking a quick survey of the audience can help you gain an accurate assessment of their opinions and interests which can determine the direction of the rest of your speech. Again, keep in mind your audience. The size and other demographics will help you determine the best question to ask.

Tell a Short Story to Connect

A personal story will help you connect with your audience and position you as a peer. Ideally the story should be boiled down to a brief few lines and clearly tie into the theme of your keynote address. Incorporate humor, emotion or suspense as the story allows. Evoking these feeling from your audience right from the beginning will have them sitting up in their chairs with perked ears waiting to hear what you’re going to say next!

Be Prepared to Change Course

If you’ve given enough speeches, you have inevitably encountered an audience that simply wasn’t feeling your vibe. This is a signal to change the course of your planned speech. Yes, it requires thinking on your feet and flexibility, but it can save the power of your message! If you need to “wake up the audience” throw in a funny or radical anecdote, move to a new point or ask an impromptu question. These are tools you should always keep at the top of your mind when giving a keynote address. It’s important to rehearse your planned speech, but it’s just as important to be able to veer away from the plan when the audience calls for it.

Inspire and Motivate

This is the ultimate purpose of a keynote address. Your speech should be easy and enjoyable to listen to, but it should still have a deeper message that motivates action. Before you write one word of your speech, you should write your core purpose and refer to it often when putting your ideas together. The best speeches include a clearly identifiable theme that inspires a new way of thinking.

Keep Your Message Simple and Repetitive

We talked about shaping your keynote address around a deeper message. This message should be simple and included in various parts of your speech. Saying it just one time won’t inspire the majority of the audience to act upon it. You must repeat it again and again. Weave this message into the beginning, middle and end of your speech. Tie every idea that you can back to it. No matter what part of your speech resonates the most with your audience, they will be sure to catch your message.

Close With a Call to Action and a WIIFM

Finally, you should end your keynote address with a clear call to action as well as answer the question “What’s in it for me?” People can be motivated to act for various reasons, but one of the most compelling is if it benefits them in some way. You should be able to highlight at least one benefit of your desired action and convey this to your audience. Maybe your action is to volunteer for a particular charity. Sure, the one mostly benefitting from this action is the charity, but you can appeal to your audience with their own benefit of helping the community, meeting new people or adding it to their resume. Any action should have a perceived benefit, otherwise what’s the motivation to get out there and do it?

Keep this checklist on hand or commit it to memory for the next time you need to craft a keynote address. By following these simple tips you will see a profound difference in the way an audience responds to your message. Most importantly, they will be left inspired and motivated to make your message their own and turn your words into action!


Other Posts You Might Like:

The Benefits of Being an English Major

Clever Conference Presentation Openings

Five Video Perfect Speech Opener Ideas

Speech Openers that Capture Your Audience

Communication Theory in a Social Media World

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Filed under Keynote Ideas, Speeches

Useful Skills That English Majors Have

My Web Writersgrad photo

Any English major will hear, or has heard, this question, “English, what can you do with that degree?” The short answer is; just about anything! Here’s why the skills that you learn with an English degree are transferable to any career. These same skills are also in high demand with employers.

The Skills an English Degree Gives You

Analytical Reading. If you can analyze a complex poem or novel, there is nothing that you can’t analyze. You also have the ability to present your analysis to others, either in written or verbal form.

Research. There is always a demand for ability to research and clearly present the results to others. With good research skills you are also able to effectively argue and defend any position.

Organization. Not only are you capable of organizing your desk; you are capable of organizing your ideas and supporting information. Organization of thought is needed to write any paper.

Articulate Writing. No English majors leave school without a few hundred pages of writing under their belts. All of this practice helps to make a more articulate writer. In order to write articulately you have to have a good grasp on grammar and spelling, as well as good ideas.

Creative Thinking. After reading though many creative works, you begin to think creatively. You can observe situations and think in directions that are unexpected.

Find many more skills that come with an English degree.

Skills Employers Want from Writers

Communication Skills. This is the most common skill that employers are looking for and is exactly what an English degree gives you. English classes focus on all three methods of communication; listening, speaking and writing. All of these are needed in any workplace.

Analytical and Research Skills. Employers are looking for someone who can look at a problem and solve it, bringing in other information if it’s needed. Both of these skills are honed with every research paper you wrote as a student.

Computer and Technical Literacy. With more businesses relying on technology it is important to know how to use basic programs like word processing programs and email. Anyone who spends a lot of time writing, like an English major does, will know word processing programs very well.

Flexibility/Managing Multiple Priorities. This means multi-tasking. Students who have successfully balanced a full class load with assignments all due at the same time knows this skill well.

Interpersonal Abilities. Can you work well with others? This is closely related with your verbal communication skills. If you can argue differing viewpoints on a novel without offending anyone then there is a good chance you can do this as well.

Planning/Organizing. Planning is a large part of being organized. As was noted above being organized is one of the many skills that come along with the English degree.

Multicultural Awareness. Workplaces are becoming more diverse and employers need employees who are able to cope with them. Reading about other cultures promotes awareness of them and English majors are well known for their reading skills.

Employers are looking for many diverse job skills. You will find that most of them are similar to the skills that come with an English degree.

So, What Can You Do With an English Degree?

To those who ask, “What can you do with an English degree?” boldly reply, “Anything I want to do!”      ~Megan

Note: Megan is completing her internship with My Web Writers this week and is about to graduate with an English degree  from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana.  Congratulations, Megan!


Filed under Colleges, Education Strategy, Resumes, Speeches, Web Writers, Women Writers

Clever Conference Presentation Openings

By My Web Writers

“Well, hello!” Presenter Smith greets his initially attentive audience, continuing with, “I’m Presenter Smith.  How nice of you to be here inside with me on this sunny afternoon.”

Yes, the audience thinks, nodding inwardly, wondering exactly how nice it is outside.

“I’m from Sheboygan—well, actually, Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, but Sheboygan’s close enough—and—“

The audience members start to check their brochures for the name of the presentation, wondering What was it I wanted to hear about here?

“—I’ve been running my own little XYZ firm for about the last twenty years. I never get tired of speaking about XYZ, and I hope you all will find this as interesting as I do.”

Presenter Smith’s audience has checked out mentally about 40 seconds into the presentation. It’s a familiar experience for seasoned conference attendees, and with good reason. The Internet and public speaking books are rife with advice that generally goes along these lines:child

Build rapport with the audience. Establish a connection. Say something personal. Capture the audience’s attention.

All that sounds well and good, but in the wrong hands, is a recipe for disaster.

Collude and Inspire

Check out Peter Diamandis’ Opening Presentation at X PRIZE’s ‘incentive2innovate’ Conference. He opens by involving the audience personally as his cohorts in working at solving global problems at a crucial moment in time, stating, “At this moment in history, when the world has so many extraordinary challenges paired with economic restrictions, how we attack those problems and solve them – because fundamentally I believe all problems can be solved—the question is how to do it in an efficient fashion.”  For a talk such as Diamandis’, he could have set out to convey information—information he thought to be important, for sure, but ultimately, information—but instead, his opening move was to inspire.

Be different.

Watch the first 30 seconds or so of singer Amanda Palmer’s TED talk on the Art of Asking:

Palmer conveys both the unexpected and the personal.  You might scoff and say, “oh, she’s an entertainer, she can get away with that,” or “this is a TED talk, my conference presentation is for a totally different audience.” In response, you must know that one of the key elements for an interesting and captivating conference presentation is not only to hear information in a new way, but to be engaged in a new and different way, as well. Unless, of course, you are actually at the Boring Conference, but if not, well, then the odds are decidedly not in your favor that anyone in the room wants to hear a talk that’s “Like Listening to Paint Dry.”

Open Up

Don’t be afraid to say something different—your audience is crying out for it. If they can’t be in awe of your motivational presentation mojo, then let them see you. Remember, you’re unique, just like everyone else.  While that may seem trite, you should think of it as reassuring. While we may not all have been living eight foot statutes like Amanda Palmer, odds are that there was something in her weird that resonated with more than one person in the audience and who has since watched that clip.

Challenge Assumptionsunique

A great speech answers a great need. This doesn’t have to be a speech or presentation on ending world hunger, solving the malaria crisis in sub-Saharan Africa, or turning the current economic crisis on end. The “great need” could be a need that your audience was not even aware that they had—and when you answer it, they’ll never forget your presentation.

Get Real

The best presentation opener you can offer is earnest confidence and true sincerity.  The primacy effect serves to remind us that as humans, we tend to remember things better if they were presented first, rather than later one. It’s also known as first impressions, because if you make a great connection with your audience, they’ll be sure to remember they could trust you, and be more motivated to buy your product, try your solutions, work for your company, and so on.

So, PUNCH It!Punch

Use the acronym PUNCH to remember specific techniques for opening your next conference presentation (or your first).  Remember, the acronym isn’t just to remember the techniques by, but it also is the technique. Start strong, with no wibbly-wobbly “Hi, my name is” tried and true boredom trustees  that every other presenter you’ve wanted to walk out on has done. Start strong—PUNCH it! ~Sara

Other Articles You Might Enjoy:

Speech Openers That Capture Your Audience

Five Video Perfect Speech Opener Ideas

Pick Up the Pen: Essential Tips to Overcoming Writer’s Block

Use Your Writing Gifts to Better the World


Filed under Capturing Audience, Conferences, Speech Openers, Speeches

Five Video Perfect, Speech Opener Ideas

My Web WritersVideo Perfect Speech Ideas

If you’re not using video yet– you should be.  When using video as a way to communicate mass messages, these following five ideas will help you to open with strong and compelling calls-to-attention and to pique your audiences’ interests.

1. Start with a demonstration.

Video presentations can do what would not be nearly as effective in front of a large, live audience. You can open your speech with a hands-on demonstration, talent, or trick – especially one that can be zoomed in on. Many people learn by doing and so a speech that begins with an immediate action captures interest and improves retention. This makes the audience want to know the connection between your demonstration and what you’re about to say next. We like the Shindigz video collection because of the quality and quantity of helpful tips and the ways in which these party products are demonstrated by Wendy and Mary.

2. Add emotion.

A video speech or presentation is also a key opportunity to employ an emotional appeal to your audience. You can begin with a montage of photos with a voiceover, words or a story from someone else or tell a story that is personal to you. Music can greatly enhance the effect of this. Another important benefit of this speech opener is that it helps to create a relationship with the audience. Through video you can sometimes lose that “human element” that you get from a live presentation, but by incorporating emotion you ensure this important element is still present right from the start. We think the Dove Real Beauty Sketches demonstrate how to effectively tug at heartstrings.

3. Incorporate humor.

The use of humor is a tried-and-true technique for many different styles of speeches. Remember that with video, you have the advantage of zooming in on facial expressions to really emphasize the humor in a story.  Telling a joke is a perfect speech opener idea for this medium because it helps to break the ice and set a warm and friendly tone. Whether dry or sarcastic, humor like Apple Coasting will bring a welcome chuckle.

4. Reference another well known speech or video clip.

Countless video clips have risen to stardom overnight after going viral on social media. These have become just about as well known as classic novels, especially depending upon the generation you ask. Including a short clip from a well known viral video as the opener of your own video speech is a great way to capture an audience’s attention and to prime them for your message. Ideally, such a clip should be relatable to the rest of your speech. With the many, many viral videos to choose from, you should be able to find something that can be woven into almost any message.  We think this Cimorelli and Matty B spoof of Cary Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe is a fun way for up-and-coming singers to partner and credit a well-known singer.

5. Do something completely unexpected.

Finally, video speeches are a great opportunity to do something completely unexpected and harness this as an effective opener to capture your audience’s attention. You’re able to zoom-in, edit, add special features and use props much more easily than you could in front of a large, live audience. So stretch your creativity and really think outside the box for an unexpected opener like a special effects trick, goofy song or sound effect. This can be in relation to the topic of the rest of your video speech or it could be a complete contrast that will keep the audience guessing.

There are many great opportunities to open your video speech that will capture your audience’s attention, build your credibility and set the stage for a powerful message.  These are just five to help get you started. They key is to remember that you must tailor your message to your audience and your medium. A video presentation or speech has unique challenges and advantages of which you should be aware and take into consideration. With the right opener and ever-advancing technology, your message can travel as far and as fast as your viewers are inspired to take it!    ~Stephanie & Jean

Other Articles:

Is Your e-Store Prepared for Summer Shoppers?

Social Networking for Business; Success Stories from 3 Brands

How Video Helps Your Website’s SEO

Resolve to Include Video in Your Content


Filed under Giving a Toast, Introductions, Speech Openers, Speeches, Video Production, YouTube

Speech Openers That Capture Your Audience

By My Web Writers

When thinking about famous speech openers I tend to think of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. He opened with that exact line, “I have a dream.” Why does this opening line stand out so much in so many people’s minds? Because it captured everyone’s attention. Are you struggling with how to open an upcoming speech? Although the setting for your speech may not be on the steps of the Lincoln Monument in front of thousands of marchers, you still need to find some way to capture your audience’s attention.

Martin Luther King, Jr. chose to engage his audience with a powerful yet short statement that he had a dream. It’s simplicity was made up for in the genuine and powerful tone of his voice. It expressed conviction, certainty, and optimism. However, not all speech openers need to convey a powerful and compelling tone. Speech openers can be funny, authoritative, or thought-provoking.

Funny Speech Openers
Begin your speech with a joke. A funny joke will break the ice and the laughter will help you feel more relaxed. However, don’t just assume that beginning with a joke requires nothing more than randomly picking a joke out of your library’s joke book and then delivering it for the first time when you open the speech. You need to make sure that the joke is appropriate, the right length, and – well – funny. For a lengthier discussion on this topic, I suggest Social Signal’s blog on The Art of the Opening Joke.

Authoritative Speech Openers
Quote someone famous. Quoting the words of a famous individual will give you an authoritative springboard from which you can develop and share your own unique thoughts. Someone else’s famous words also works to substantiate the quality of your speech because

  • it shows that you spent time preparing the speech or
  • that your expertise has come from being familiar with and studying the important figures in your subject matter.

If you need a little help finding some great quotations to use as your speech opener, visit Famous Quotes at BrainyQuotes. They have thousands of quotes categorized by topic, type, and author.

Thought Provoking Speech Openers
Get your audience invested right from the start by asking a question that causes them to measure their own response against the content of your speech. Not only will your question galvanize their focused attention, if effectively played upon in the body of the speech, the speech opener will hold your audience’s attention throughout the entirety of your speech. Much like the quotation, the question informs the speech’s content in that whatever you share should be answering the opening question. Another benefit of this type of speech opener is that the question can appropriately be used as the speech’s conclusion marking that your speech has brought the question full circle.

Speech Openers and Written Content
Given the value of captivating speech openers in delivering a talk, address, or toast, does this also transfer to a written work? The goal of a speech is the same as the goal for writing. That goal is to capture the reader’s attention and immediately invest them in what your piece has to say. The difference between the nature of the two communicative modes lies in the fact that an unsuccessful speech opener can be salvaged by virtue of an audience who has already blocked out the time to hear one talk or by virtue of the fact that one can readjust the speech opener on a speech-by-speech basis. Written content doesn’t enjoy a scheduled audience nor does it enjoy the flexibility of a live speech. Because you need to make sure that a written opener gets it right prior to being released to the public, outsource your written content to professional, content writers. At the very least, you should always make sure to let someone representative of your audience read it before going to print or going live on your website, Facebook page, or email campaign.



Filed under Capturing Audience, Speech Openers, Speeches

Tips For Giving A Successful Toast

by My Web Writers


So you’ve been asked to give a toast. No – not the kind of toast sung about by Heywood Banks while playing a toaster. You have been asked to stand before your peers on a special occasion and reflect upon the past while wishing well for the future. At the conclusion of your toast everyone will raise their glasses and second your sentiments with an expression of cheers before taking a drink. As if standing in front of everyone to deliver a toast isn’t nerve-racking enough, the pressure associated with sharing thoughts with which everyone agrees and wishes to second can be paralyzing. Following the tips provided under the three most important aspects of giving a toast (the right staging, the right material, and the right delivery) will help you in giving a successful toast.

Staging your Toast
Get your toast off to a great start by setting the right stage. If you are giving a toast to a specific person or multiple individuals, make sure that you stand near or face them. As you make your decision as to where to stand with respect to the guest or guests of honor, take into consideration that you don’t want to be squeezed into a tight, unattractive place. You should have room to gesture and to easily make eye contact with both those you are toasting and the audience. Timing is also an important part of staging. Don’t deliver the toast until you have everyone’s attention. You can politely get their attention by standing up and chiming your fork on your glass. Since every toast ends with the traditional raising and drinking a glass of bubbly, make sure that everyone in the audience has a glass with bubbly either already poured inside of it or available for them to pour prior to the start of your toast.

Material for your Toast
When putting together the material for your toast, which you should be working on at least two weeks to a month BEFORE the event, you should follow some basic guidelines.

  • Know your audience. Once you know the make-up and personality of your audience, you can customize the content accordingly. For example, if you have an unruly, crazy crowd, then you can afford to push the envelope. If there are children in the audience, then make sure your toast is entertaining in an unoffensive way.
  • Limit the toast to three to five minutes. Remember, they call it a toast because it is not a speech. You can stay within that time limit if you have refined the content of your toast. How do you refine it? Don’t get wordy. Stay on subject. Don’t digress from what you have prepared and practiced.
  • Make sure your toast has an opening, body and conclusion. In the opening, introduce yourself and acknowledge the occasion or people who have brought you all together in celebration of the occasion you are toasting. In the body, make it your own. Express what you admire about the person or persons. Share experiences that don’t embarrass, offend, or denigrate. See that the tone is sincere, complimentary, and postive. In the ending, express your best wishes, share some parting words of wisdom, tie in a famous quote, or any other form of famous closing words. Overall, make the material of your toast fit the occasion and the audience.
Delivering your Toast
It’s time to deliver. The stage is set, the material finalized and it is time to face the audience. Here are some basic suggestions on how to make sure that the material you have refined and rehearsed for weeks prior to giving the toast comes across successfully :
  • speak slowly,
  • articulate your words,
  • use vocal variety,
  • make sure everyone can hear you,
  • don’t speak in an inebriated state,
  • have a smile on your face,
  • have your glass ready to raise at the end of the toast.

Still feeling a little nervous about the toast? Here are some additional tactics that can bring down your anxiety level. Bring a prop. Tell a joke.

Looking for more information on giving a toast or need help finding popular toasts? Check out the following websites or videos:
Toasts, Trivia, and Quotes
How to Give a Good Toast
How to Propose a Toast – This video actually recognizes that the practices crucial to a successful toast are also relevant to delivering a great speech of any kind.
Here’s to… Making a Holiday Toast
How do you Say Cheers in Every Language

A Toast to You
In conclusion, My Web Writers would like to offer their own toast.

Here’s to another year older and another year wiser. Here’s to the connections we’ve made and the friendships we’ve built. But most importantly, as we approach 2012, here’s to you. May you find success in your business ventures, may you be able to express what you wish to express (or hire someone who can say it better than you), and may you and your loved ones enjoy peace and happiness throughout the year and years to come. Cheers!


Filed under Giving a Toast, Speeches