Helloooo, NSA!

Well, what a hot diggity thrill it is to have an article published in Speaker magazine. (Fellow grammar geeks, that’s a lowercase “m” in “magazine”: It’s Speaker magazine, not Speaker Magazine, according to the magazine cover.)

My name is Liz Coursen. I live in Sarasota, Florida. I’m a very new member of the National Speakers Association, and I recommend membership to everyone—especially Toastmasters—who is interested in taking a hard look at the speaking business and wants to understand the level of professionalism necessary to be a professional speaker.

If there’s one truth about the NSA, it’s this: the speaking is thrilling. Thrill-ing. If you think public speaking is a contact sport, then the NSA is for you! I enjoy it so much that I drove three hours to Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday to hear Darren LaCroix, World Champion of Public Speaking, generously share his wisdom with the Florida Speakers Association. In addition to its membership, the chapter had at least a dozen guests witness the high level of presentation skills on display by everyone involved in this exemplary event. Speaking at NSA really sets the bar! So, welcome, NSA!

And, as a culinary aside, the Westin Ft. Lauderdale’s fresh and flavorful (and surprisingly healthy!) lunch buffet was the best meal I’ve had in association with an NSA event. Yum!

Hey, may I ask you a favor? While the speaking at NSA may set the bar, the writing I’ve seen would give an eighth grader pause. So would you please take a moment this week to look over your presentation materials? I bet you do handouts, and PowerPoints, and maybe even self-tests—I do self-tests in my editing classes. I’m going to ask you to recheck the spelling in your documents and double-check your use of punctuation and grammar. I’m seeing too many mistakes on promotional materials at the highest levels.

I’m just going to come out and say it: Don’t look illiterate. Look smart. Look like a smart person. Smart people publish perfect writing. Look like someone who cares about the details. I hope I won’t offend you when I say that God is in the details. I believe it. I’ve written about it. When we create—whether it is writing, speaking, singing, painting, or whatever creative activity you undertake—we reach up to the Divine. We strive for perfection. So there is no excuse for a misspelled word or words, especially at this level. Running your material through a spell-check program is the minimum action you can take on the path to good writing.

There are two requirements of good writing: it’s got to be correct and it’s got to be compelling. Let’s take “correct” first. (It should be first, because how can you “compel” anyone to take your lead, to follow your example, to listen to what you have to say unless you are “correct”?)

As a professional, everything you publish, no matter what the format, must be written to a professional level. That means it’s first and foremost correct. If you aren’t confident about your punctuation prowess, then have a competent person check it out. I’m not talking about your son’s girlfriend, who majored in English in college, I’m talking about an editor.

How much does this “correct” content cost? Well, it depends, of course, but it’s very affordable. I can tell you that I recently read four double-sided handouts from a very exciting speaker, and there were two misspelled words (each word too mangled to be deemed a “typo,” which anyone can (and does!) make), and a myriad of punctuation mistakes. Cost to fix? $45, but, with my hour minimum, $110. (Which means I could have probably reviewed and corrected a PowerPoint, or more marketing materials, or a website in addition to the four pages, for $110.)

If you are paying mega bucks for a speaking coach, then invest in correct written content! Why squander your investment in yourself by publishing incorrect content? Mistakes make you look untrustworthy. Can you afford to look untrustworthy? Because that’s what happens when presenters have handouts that are full of misspelled words and other mistakes.

Okay, so, first thing: correct content.

Second thing: compelling content. Stay tuned for that topic.