Leadership communications with Rob Cottingham

30 years ago this spring, I wrote my first speech as a professional — and started a career in leadership communications that has now spanned three decades.

To celebrate, I’ve launched a speechwriting and public speaking podcast: 30 short episodes with the key lessons I’ve learned in the business of planning, crafting and delivering powerful speeches.

Check for the latest episode every Tuesday and Thursday.

Ep. 13. Don’t meet your audience’s expectations

...Wait, what? By all means, meet — or beat — your audience's expectations for what they'll get out of your speech. But not for what you put into it. Here's how to be surprising and unpredictable, but still reliable. Music: "Upbeat" by John Luc Hefferman. Used under a...

Ep. 12. Make your audience a little uncomfortable

Every instinct tells us to make our audiences comfortable. Yet a little discomfort can lead to some of the most powerful experiences your speech can offer. Here's how. Links: "Nanette" by Hannah Gadsby on Netflix, and Gadsby's speech on "The Good Men" Music: "Upbeat"...

Ep. 11. Use slides well… if at all

The world is full of speeches weighed down with terrible slide decks. Don't let yours be one of them. This episode, we look at how to make PowerPoint work well for you and your audience — and I make the case for not using slides at all. Links: Here are the books I...

Ep. 10. Ease up on the statistics

When your speech unleashes a flood of statistics, you can lose your audience's interest — and their emotional connection — fast. Let's talk about how to chose a gem of a statistic and put it in the perfect setting... and then make it part of what drives your story,...

Ep. 9. Suspense!

One of the most effective ways a speech can hold an audience's attention is suspense. And withholding a little information can whet their appetite for the answer to the question, "What happens next?" Links: Story by Robert McKee. He wrote it with screenwriters in...

Ep. 8: Consider all of your audiences

The folks in the room are just one of the audiences your speech is going to reach. Here's how to think through who else may be listening in... and how you'll account for them when you're writing your speech. Music: "Upbeat" by Jon Luc Hefferman, and Cheese by David...

Ep. 7. Use plain language… but not just plain language

Plain language can make your speech a lot clearer, and allow your ideas and thinking to shine through. But there are times when speechwriters and speakers want to reach for the more complex words... and even use (gasp!) jargon. Music: "Upbeat" by Jon Luc Hefferman,...

Ep. 6. Defend your narrative arc

Between "helpful" suggestions from others and your own creativity, it often isn't easy keeping a speech on topic and on track. Here are some tools for sticking to the path — and a few tips on handling unavoidable detours. Music: "Upbeat" by Jon Luc Hefferman, used...

Ep. 5. Get vulnerable

You've probably always been told to project confidence and certainty  when you're speaking from the stage. But if you want to truly connect with your audience, a little vulnerability in your speech can go a long way. Links: Probably the best-known writer and...

Ep. 4. Plot Your Emotional Arc

We've talked about your speech's one big story, the narrative arc. But running in tandem with it is something at least as important to your audience: the emotional arc. Music: "Upbeat" by Jon Luc Hefferman, used under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial...

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