Sarah Archer – The Art Of Public Speaking, Using Humour And Storytelling – 011

Here is what is shared and discussed in this episode:

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The interview:

Sarah is the founder of Lemon Squeeze Productions, in the UK, and all-round in her speaking business: comedian, actress, play writer, copy writer, author, keynote speaker, speaking coach and employee engagement specialist. She helps leaders and professionals on their quest to becoming high impact communicators, especially during change and transformation, combining her business and coaching background with her comedy experience.

Sarah is a qualified Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner, integrating a specific communication approach with personal development and psychotherapy.

She hosts the podcast: The Speaking Club Podcast, in which she brings hacks, tips and inspiring interviews and stories on public speaking. I recommend it as a great source, and it is very entertaining.

Sarah has been performing stand up comedy since 2003 all over the UK and in 2015 she took her first play ‘Dearly Beloved’ on tour. In 2016, her performance and business background led to writing her first book Cracking Speech Mate! – ‘How to use humour to make you an amazing speaker’. Followed by her book Straight to the Top – ‘How to create and deliver a killer elevator pitch’.

This year, 2018, she plans to come out with an online course.

She loves being in front of a large audience and being in control of their attention. She’s actually more comfortable in front of a large crowd than doing networking. But whatever the audience size and difference in energy, she treats her speeches like a conversation.

She has always been interested in entertaining people, since a little child. There was a reward for her in making people smile. People give you their attention. Even in job interviews she tried to be cheeky. Not overstepping the line, knowing how far to go. Using humour, as well as self deprecation! Making fun of yourself. Nelson Mandela was a master at that, she says, and made people feel at ease.

She wanted to go to drama school, but didn’t get in at the time. She then took a job in the corporate world in IT, starting off in the UK and then Germany.

In Germany, she started to see the power of speaking, when she got elected at the age of 22 as a Works Council chair. Could she do the job at her age? She was asked to give a speech at the annual company event in front of the whole company. One of the things that worked was humour and stories. It was a powerful tool. Her speech removed any doubt whether she was fit for the job or not.
When she moved back to UK, she switched to HR and Consulting in the corporate world. But she also started stand up comedy and writing. Recently, she channeled her expericiences into writing plays for theatre.

Sarah left the corporate world in 2010 for the first time, as she wanted to make a career out of teaching people on how to use humor and do standup comedy. But she didn’t treat it as a business, and ended up going back to corporate.

Then about a year ago, she decided she really wanted to make a success out of speaking. The calling was too strong; her love and passion to challenge, entertain and teach people, make them surprise themselves. Her business was still there, but now she would treat it as such, and it made all the difference!

For her very first speeches, she used stories from an after-dinner speaking book. She integrated them in her talks and it worked! People resonated with the stories. It’s a technique anyone can learn. That and bringing in your personality to stand out!

There are different types of speakers:

  • Keynote speaker – Paid speaker, doing a 45 minute talk at a conference, inspire and give action tips
  • Platform speaker – Unpaid speaker, who’s intention is to sell a product or service. If done right, it shouldn’t feel like a sales talk.
  • MC (Master of Ceremonie) – Their job is to make the other speakers look good and to keep the event running smoothly.

But speaking is also part of any job and role that needs to sell change, needs to engage or make an impact. If you want to grow (a business), you need to be a good storyteller. Her key clients are therefore corporate leaders and entrepreneurs.

Humor and storytelling are important to communication and are the secret to business success. And with the advent of Ted Talks, you see how important stories have become in business. There are very good examples of gifted speakers out there now, which has raised the bar.
You can’t rely on your PowerPoint slides as protective armor, as all it does is undermine you, Sarah says. These days you cannot get to the top of a company and not be a good speaker.

She gives an 2 examples of brands that grew enormously, because of storytelling and humour.

  1. Dollar Shave Club, started 5 years ago, sold to Unilever 1 billion dollars
  2. Squatty Potty grew 400% in retail sales and 600% in online sales.

In general, the main steps to approach a talk are:

  1. Before looking at the content, the humour or storytelling of your speech, figure out what the goals of the talk are. Confirm your purpose and recognize what your presentation is going to ask your audience to do, say, think.
  2. When the problem you are solving and the solution you are offering is clear, try and ‘summarize’ your talk into one sentence.
  3. Brainstorm around that one sentence. What stories can you use to bring that one sentence accross?
  4. Look at the gaps are that would hinder the message, think about the uncomfortable parts of your presentation.
  5. For the end talk, try and focus on the 3 most important points and link a story around each of those. Use stories like an epiphany bridge and create hooks so that your audience can relate (think of the hero’s journey with struggles and wins).
  6. Try to include humour for more engagement and entertainment.
  7. Include take-away’s, as people want to have things to do after.

Stand up comedy can be a huge help to become a better speaker, as well. She teaches those techniques to many business people. And at the end of her course her students have to perform 5 minute standup comedy that is self written. She also teaches to no be afraid to have an attitude and a clear opinion, because it can transform a speech. You might not connect to everyone. You don’t want that either. But, you have to connect to your ‘tribe’.

When it comes to failure, something she learned from Neuro Linguistic Programming, is that there is no such thing as failure, only feedback. And everyone in the world is worried about what other people think of them. Very few people are born without worry. She therefore tries to focus on her goals and not give up when things get tough. What makes someone successful in business and life are your will and drive, having a strong mindset.

As a female speaker, she says that having worked in HR for so long, she’s seen women not applying for jobs if they are not ticking all the box. The same thing goes for speaking. In general, men are quicker to promote themselves. Women could be encouraged more, for sure. However, woman themselves should become less worried, be more light. Bring in humour to counteract.