By Anne Bonney,, MSA Participant

After an amazing morning in the NSA-MI Chapter meeting watching NSA President Dan Thurmon, a true master of the speaking craft, the Michigan Speakers Academy Class of 2019 gathered. We were ready to spend the rest of the afternoon learning Preparation and Platform mechanics from another speaking veteran, Eleni Kelakos of The Eleni Group. One of the massive benefits of the Michigan Speakers Academy is that we have access to speakers with tons of experience, who have braved the speaking career and made it work for them, and Saturday was no exception. Eleni gave us her all, preparing us to follow in her footsteps toward a successful speaking career.

She kicked off the afternoon with a hook, an engaging story about a road trip. Pulling back the curtain, she explained everything she did to get our attention, build rapport, and present the topic of the day in an exciting way. Then she gave us tips and tricks on pre-event preparation, like how to create a checklist for getting to know your client and the audience you’ll be speaking for, and the importance of following up two weeks before, and then, when you arrive, being someone who doesn’t bring any additional stress to the already stressed-out meeting planner. Eleni gave us access to her templates for confirmations, pre-event preparation, and AV needs, so we have a working document to edit into our own. Very helpful.

After that, we moved into speech structure. There she provided a diagram of a fish, to help us create a speech that flows. The head of the fish, she explained, is the build-up to the main content, illustrating the importance of the hook and the preview. Once into the content, she gave us a simple structure of “Story, Point, Evidence” for each of the three to five main points—which is all an audience can handle, she explained—to make it easy to put together and modify on the fly if necessary! Lastly were the tie-up and the tail, complete with action items so our audience has a truly transformational experience, rather than just a good time.

We talked logistics like microphones, gear checklists, backups, and stage and seating setups. We left with tips to help us newbies avoid common nightmares, and the lesson to control what you can, because circumstances will always appear that are out of your control that will cause stress. Alleviate the stress that’s within your control, so you have more capacity to deal with the unknowns.

Speaking of stress, we talked about the preparation rituals of peak performers, and how we can use many different tactics to ground ourselves and reduce tension so we can be truly present for our audience. Then, we talked about the importance of maintaining connection with the audience, to keep them engaged and learning.

It was another fabulous day of learning with NSA-MI and the Michigan Speakers Academy, and we’re all geared up to do our homework: preparing our checklists, thinking about seating setup to maximize the effectiveness of our particular programs, and getting our stories ready for our first presentations when we’ll put what we learned into action in five- to seven-minute presentations for feedback from our illustrious faculty. Ever Onward!

About the Author

Anne Bonney provides energetic and engaging programs to companies undergoing change, or disrupting the norm to ignite the courage of their teams to embrace the discomfort of unknowns. She has been a professional speaker since 2015, and currently lives in Traverse City, Michigan, but is on the road most weeks providing leadership and communication training through Skillpath Seminars. Anne joined the Michigan Speakers Academy to hone her message and skills to take her own speaking business to the next level so she can leave the contract training world behind once and for all!