How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?

Speaker with Note Cards

Ya know how when you go to a wedding, and speaker after speaker comes to the front, extolling the virtues of the bride and groom? And it’s just lovely, except the part at the beginning, when they pull out three sheets of paper, and you can kinda tell, even from far away, that the type is very small and single spaced. The sinking feeling of the audience is palpable. But everyone forgives and enjoys, because it’s a wedding! And it’s joyful!

That’s the rare occasion where you can have copy paper shaking in your hands, and everyone will forgive. For our purposes in a business speech, you can’t do that. You need to demonstrate the answer to the joke question, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Answer: “Practice, practice, practice.” That quote has been attributed to Heifetz, Rubinstein, and Jack Benny, but no one really knows who created it. Here are some tips:

1. Never write out your speech word for word. That’s a surefire path to disaster, because if you trip up on one word, you lose your way completely. Also, if your head is buried in your papers, you cannot make eye contact to connect with your audience. And you know how important that is.

2. Use bullet points. Each bullet point will stand for a “thought group.” Each name will stand for a story that you tell. Use note cards. The cards must be stiff enough so they won’t crinkle or make noise in your hands. Don’t play with them. All you need is a note card with a thought group on it, the title of the story, or whatever is coming next. The audience then feels secure you know what comes next.

3. Practice! Work from your bullet points a lot so that you know what comes first, second, and third. This is where people mess up. They don’t want to practice. It takes time and effort. Practice is not only the way to Carnegie Hall. It’s the only way to master your material, so that you look like someone your audience wants to work with. I can help you. Please call me for a complimentary 30-minute call to explore how you can speak to grow your business.


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