Archive for the ‘Public Speaking’ Category

Move Your Story File Out of Your Head

Whenever someone asks if I have a story file, I say, “Yes,” and point to my head.

Portrait of a smiling senior woman reading a book at home Old-fashioned style Can Stock Photo Inc.  prometeusBut after attending two storytelling workshops in recent weeks, I have started a written story file. Retrieving stories from a brain that can’t remember why it directed me to walk into a room is iffy at best. I’ll probably miss the best one to illustrate the point I want to make. Having them stored in written form makes it more likely to hit on the right one.

What kinds of stories should go into the file? All kinds, because you never know how they may fit in. For example, here are a few stories from my file that haven’t made it into a speech yet, either because they weren’t available in my head when I was looking for them or I haven’t raised a point yet that they fulfill.

Story 1: I was climbing up a tree-lined mountain trail with a 50-pound pack on my back. I was 11 years old and 80 pounds soaking wet. And I was soaking wet. It had been raining since my Boy Scout troop began the climb. The rain turned to hail. The hail turned to snow, then back to rain. Rivers of water pushed rivers of mud beneath my feet. I slipped and fell, my cold young hands buried in the nearly freezing muck. I began to cry. Our scoutmaster, my dad, pulled me up by my collar. “Real men don’t cry,” he growled. “Get moving!”

Fast-forward 41 years. My 19-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer. We rode the muddy river through hell, up the mountain and back again. One night we nearly lost her. On my way home from the hospital, a river of tears broke the dam. I was crying so hard there may as well have been a blinding thunderstorm outside the car. But the storm was behind the wheel, not in front of it. Unable to see, I pulled onto the shoulder until the storm passed, thunder erupting from my vocal chords as my body shook in violent spasms.

Real men do cry.

OK, that’s actually two stories that make a point. Perhaps I can find a couple more and actually make a speech from it. The next two don’t make a particular point, yet.

Story 2: My wife and I were concerned my dog, Galadriel, would be a danger to our newborn twins. Galadriel by then was about 7 years old and never liked children. She had to be locked up whenever children visited because she would attack them. A day or two after the twins came home, some friends came over to meet them. Galadriel knew the couple and liked them. But when we sent them down the hall unescorted, Galadriel scooted past them, sat at the entrance to the twins’ bedroom, bared her teeth, and growled. It was only when my wife and I came down the hall that our friends were allowed in the bedroom. Those were her pups now.

Story 3: Matt and Peter Viaggio lived across the street from my two older brothers and me. We were good friends. Except when we were fighting each other, which was often. At those times, our parents would forbid us from seeing or playing with each other for a week or a month, depending on the seriousness of the fight. After a few days, however, we were sneaking in play time. I don’t think we fought while we were on suspension—but we would as soon as the suspension ended!

Those three stories are among the first dozen to go into my story file. With more than six decades of memories, there will be many more. What’s in your story file? Have you written them down or are they still bouncing around your head? If they’re in your head, do you remember why you walked into the room?

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at

Unleash your power TW


Words Matter

Thought balloon Canstock 300We have come here to bury Mehrabian, not to praise him.

Actually, that’s not true. Just as it’s not true that Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s 7% rule applies to all communication. That was fake news before fake news was popular.

The rule can be found in Mehrabian’s 1971 best seller, Silent Messages.

You’ve undoubtedly heard it: communication is 55% body language, 38% vocal variety, and a mere 7% the words we speak.  It’s been cited by professional communicators for 45 years. And, in restricted circumstances, the rule is true. For the bulk of communication, however, it is not. Still, the perverted version of the rule is so pervasive that Mehrabian, now professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA, was forced to publish a disclaimer on his website.

“Please note that this and other equations regarding relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes (i.e., like-dislike). Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable.”

Words do matter. Otherwise, why does a speaker speak? Should we all stand on stage and mime our speeches? Am I the only one who finds mimes annoying?

From the evaluation forms filled out by attendees at my workshops, I know words matter. When asked what was their greatest takeaway, often the answer is, “The magic is in the rewrite.” There is no gesture for that. There is vocal inflection. But it’s the words they remember.

Words matter. When writing your presentation, choose them carefully. Then gesture when appropriate. Vary your vocal delivery in tune to your message. But no amount of body language or vocal variety will save your message if your words don’t convey it clearly, vividly, and concisely.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at

Unleash your power TW

Yes, You Can be a Better Writer and Speaker

“Can I learn to be a better writer/speaker/communicator if I don’t consider it one of my strengths?”

Female hand writing Can Stock Photo Inc. isuaneye smThat was one of the questions asked in a pre-workshop questionnaire by an attendee at one of my recent writing workshops.

The answer is, yes. Everyone can become a better writer/speaker/communicator. Writing and speaking is an art, but it is also a craft. According to Merriam-Webster, “art implies a personal, unanalyzable creative power” while “craft may imply expertness in workmanship.”

Learning the craft—the workmanship—of communication only takes willingness and commitment. Art—the creativity—comes when you begin to play with the skills you have learned. Just like a master carpenter first learns the basic skills of woodworking before experimenting with design, a wordsmith must first learn the basic rules of the English language. You’ll soon find that the English language is very flexible and fluid. That sometimes makes it difficult to learn, but it also makes it fun to play with.

Ready to start? Begin with my book, Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Then contact me for a free, one-hour, no-obligation discussion on how I may coach you into better communications. You can do it. Everyone can.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at

Unleash your power TW

Writing a Speech Using the Grocery List Method

How many of you make a grocery list before you go shopping? How many of you have crossed something off the list and added something else? Congratulations. You’re a speechwriter.

Woman's hands holding a shopping list of six items, two of which have been crossed out, over a shopping cart in the produce sectionIt’s that easy—and that hard.

Let’s compare the process of preparing a grocery list and writing a speech. You compose a first draft, then revise it because maybe you already have ketchup and garlic—or repeat your point one too many times. But you notice you’re out of onions and put that on the list, or add an emotional story in your speech that will bring tears to your audience’s eyes.

You put stars next to the must-haves in both list and speech. You double-check the meat, dairy, produce, frozen foods, paper products—and your spelling, your subject-verb agreement, and your word choice. You’re constantly revising your grocery list until you have to turn the key in your car and drive to the store—or your speech until heading to a Toastmasters meeting to give it a dry run.

You’ve given yourself enough time to shop, come home, unload, and make dinner—just as you’ve timed your speech to be delivered in the allotted time. If you’re a frequent shopper, you know your stage directions and strategically move from aisle to aisle. You practice vocal variety when you raise your voice just enough to allow the slicer at the deli counter to hear you, but not loud enough to annoy the other shoppers.

You come home and you discover you forgot to put something on or take something off the list. It’s never done and you’re never completely satisfied. But you still make a darn good stew with the ingredients you have. And, your audience is satisfied too.

Congratulations. You’re a tasty speechwriter using the grocery list method.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at

Write It, Speak It Workshop presented by Tom Pfeifer of Consistent Voice Communications, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., March 11, 2017, Vienna, VA. Free. Register Now

Same Old Tom Meets Tom the Author

I was at a chamber mixer last week. Erin, the daughter of one of my fellow entrepreneurs, was there too.

Cropped Coffee_Conversations 2-24-16

The author leading a Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce Coffee & Conversation.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met an author before,” she said.

To which I rather stupidly and haughtily replied, “Now you have.”

I didn’t mean to sound haughty. I just was taken aback that Erin did not know any authors. I know lots of authors. In fact, in my circle I’m rather late to the game. No big deal, really. It’s been a lifelong dream to publish a book. Now I have, as many have before me. End of story.

But it’s not. Because, I’ve found, much of the world runs in Erin’s circles, not mine. They’ve never met an author before. To many people, I’m unique to their circle.

In the few short weeks since my book was published, I’m no longer introduced as Tom. I’m introduced as Tom the Author. At business networking meetings and at Toastmasters gatherings, Author is always appended to my name. As if I’m a new person. As if the old Tom doesn’t exist anymore, and in his place is this shiny new being.

I will be presenting an educational session at a Toastmasters International district conference next Saturday because I am a published author. Thirty years of writing for newspapers, politicians, associations, and businesses, years of writing a blog and years ago writing a book four times as thick didn’t gain me that privilege. The previous book hasn’t been published. It didn’t make me Tom the Author. Presenting the same workshop several times before the book was published may have gotten my foot in the door, but publishing a book threw the door wide open.

Presenting at the conference will be the same old Tom. I may say something stupid and be unintentionally haughty. I will intentionally crack some jokes. More importantly, I will share lessons learned from more than 30 years of being a professional writer that my audience can use to improve their communication skills. That’s my reason for being there.

Oh, and I’ll have some books to sell. Because while I am the same old Tom, I now have Author appended to my name. I need to take advantage before the novelty wears off. The old Tom approves.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

Book cover for Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They'll Applaud!

Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! is available on Kindle or paperback.


I Want Your E-Book! How?

Book cover for Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They'll Applaud!When I published my new e-book on Tuesday, I did not anticipate the number of unforeseen questions and problems that would arise.

Hint to future self-published authors: Do not schedule oral surgery on the same day you publish a book. You don’t three hours to be out of pocket.

Lessons learned, I’m going to attempt to give away Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll Applaud! as a free download again this weekend. I’m offering it over two days for a very good reason: I hope you will all attempt to download it on Saturday, when I’ll be out of pocket again. No, I’m not having more surgery. I am, however, surgically removing junk that has accumulated around the house and depositing it at the annual free Neighborhood Cleanup event in the morning. Then I’m quickly showering, throwing on a rare Saturday tie, and officiating at a division-level Toastmasters International Speech and Evaluation Contest.

Sunday I’ll be around to problem-solve. Hopefully there won’t be many problems to solve because I’m offering to you here the three most prevalent problems that presented on Tuesday and their satisfying solutions.

Issue: “I can download the picture, but the book doesn’t download with it.” Followed by: “I’d like my free download, but I don’t want to sign up for Kindle Unlimited.”

Solution: On Saturday and Sunday, the book will be available for free. No strings attached. But to obtain it, you do have to click on the “Buy Now” button. I know, it’s counterintuitive to have to “buy” something that is free. But by clicking that button, my book will land in your cart. Then, when you check out, your charge will be $0.00.

Issue: “I don’t have a Kindle.”

Solution: You don’t need a Kindle. Underneath the cover art is box that says: “Read on Any Device: Get free Kindle App.” Click on it. It has an app for you. I don’t have a Kindle either. But I read Kindle books on my Android phone and my Windows laptop. (They have Apple apps too.)

Issue: “I’m in Australia (India, Qatar) and it won’t let me download. I guess it’s only available in the United States.”

Solution: Here are the international links Amazon provided to me. If yours is not listed, log onto your Amazon account in your home nation and search for Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll Applaud! Please let me know if it still doesn’t seem available. I’ll look into it.

UK, DE, FR, ES, IT, NL, JP, BR, CA, MX, AU, and IN.

(How many Californians do you think will click on CA and complain they can’t download it?)

Thanks in advance! Talk to you on Sunday!

P.S. If the book was helpful, please leave a review on the Amazon page. (U.S. link.)

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at

Write It, Speak It Available for Download

Book cover for Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They'll Applaud!Hello Family & Friends!

My new book, Write It, Speak It, is available today, Tuesday, April 5, as a FREE download as my birthday present to you!  Share with your family and friends! Let’s make free download history!

In three chapters, Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll Applaud, gives you the tools you need to produce a more effective, powerful, and memorable speech. Chapter 1 discusses the rules and good practices of all effective writing. With that foundation set, Chapter 2 sets out the ways in which speech writing differs from other forms of writing, and how spoken language allows you to make your words come alive. Chapter 3 provides you with techniques to write more powerful and memorable speeches through storytelling, timing, and rhetorical devices.

Tom Pfeifer has been a professional communicator for more than 30 years. In Write It, Speak It, he uses research and personal stories to show how you can write speeches they’ll applaud.


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