Was it just the other day that I was on holiday with my family, starting each day with a steaming cup of coffee, gazing over the Western-Cape ocean? Now suddenly I am back in my office early morning – at least the steaming cup of coffee is still there, – but having to manage priorities again.

Do have good intentions for the new year? And if you have goals, do you have plans how to achieve them? I have tried one of the famous planning systems which promise instant success: Guess, what happened?

Firstly, the system is so cumbersome that it took forever to get the planning to a point where I could set goals.

Secondly, it seems that you need to study and spend lots of time to keep track of your progress.

This is the time of year-end parties – and speeches.  I attended a year-end dinner just recently: The ambience was festive, the food was delicious, there were beautiful flower arrangements, the evening gowns of the ladies and suits of the gentlemen were lovely to watch, but the speeches! Yes, you guessed it: The speeches were boring. There were long sentences and words difficult to understand. The speeches were too long, and it was difficult to follow the speaker’s thoughts.

Why do some speakers manage to write speeches that people enjoy listening to? Because without realising, we write our speeches just as we write a report or an academic paper – suited to be read and not heard.  The style for business writing is usually formal, with longer sentences and technical jargon. If the reader does not understand a sentence or paragraph, he/she can re-read the difficult piece of text.

Knowing how to begin a speech or talk is often a challenge for my clients. What do I say first, how many main points should I cover? What is a good way to end?Question and Answer

When I coach participants how to develop a good talk, I teach the 5 steps which take them along a journey to get to the content and approach of the talk. And then I watch them developing a strategy towards a clear theme: They first decide what their broad goal is, then cut it down to one central theme and then apply the power statement-method. After that it boils down to brainstorming the 3 to 5 main points for the content and finally, they do a bit of creative thinking on how to make each point interesting. Add to that a catchy introduction and they are well on their way to deliver an outstanding presentation!

I attended the inauguration of a non-profit organization which assists unemployed people learn skills and find job opportunities. What a pleasure to listen to the opening speeches! The first speaker, the chairperson of the Board, presented a striking start: He smiled warmly and took time to connect with the audience by looking at us! The audience felt his sincerity. It was as if he spoke to each person in the room. And he applied all the techniques an outstanding speech needs, quite naturally: The content had good structure, there was plenty of eye contact, he used varying voice dynamics, the speech had something for the head and something for the heart... What a pleasure!

The second speech was just as impressive: The speaker spoke right from his heart, sharing why he loved what the organisation was doing. More importantly, he shared how the organisation assisted men to change their lives for the better. It was a speech with 'snot en trane' (as the Afrikaans people would say for something very emotional). Authentic, good to listen to!