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In our first episode, we’re talking with an absolutely brilliant speech coach and an unbelievably talented speechwriter about the do's and don’ts of writing and presenting a great speech. This conversation was like a year of grad school crammed into 20 minutes. So hit the download button, screw your headphones on tight, and get ready to take notes.

Kristin Boeke-Greven

Kristin collaborates with C-level business and thought leaders who want to communicate with authenticity, conviction and clarity. She helps clients craft their message, hone delivery, and feel comfortable and confident.

Kristin regularly writes for senior executives from a number of Fortune 500 companies helping them with keynote addresses, sales conferences, board of director meetings, employee town halls, panel discussions, online meetings, Q&A sessions and more.

Kerri Garbis

CEO and founder of Ovation, a thirty-person global training firm, Kerri has trained thousands of executives globally in Professional Presence and Speaker Development. She works with companies like Microsoft, VMware, and Boar’s Head.

She is certified as a Business Etiquette Expert, an Emotional Intelligence Expert, and a Professional Speechwriter. McGraw-Hill is the publisher of her book, Presentation Skills for Managers.

Kerri is also the founder of Be Ready., a non-profit initiative offering Ovation’s professional presence training to Black youth of America.


Hosted and Written by Jeremy Dobrish

Produced by Bethany Potter

Theme Music by Mike Mancini

Logo design by Shraddha Maharjan

Special thanks to Dossie McCraw


By Jeremy Dobrish

The graphics on the ultra-hi-res LED screens are stunning. The colorful moving lights cut through the haze in the air beautifully. And the high energy music coming out of the killer sound system is thumping. Then the first speaker comes out, and gives a lackluster presentation of a poorly written script. Well, there aren’t enough bells and whistles in the world to cover up a bad speech.

So I sat down with Kerri Garbis, CEO of Ovation and all around badass speech coach, and Kristin Boeke-Graven, superstar speech writer to get at the heart of how they help people elevate their presentations to new heights.

And when I asked Kerri “How do you describe yourself to people?” and she responded, “I make people face their biggest fears” I knew it was game on.

Kristin’s answer was a bit more straightforward, and right on the money: ”I help senior executives sound good and look good and feel comfortable when they're giving big presentations.”

Sometimes it seems like a speech writer or speech coach wouldn’t be necessary. After all, don’t people know what they want to say, and can’t they just get up and say it? The truth is – no. No, they can’t. Kristin feels that speech writers help presenters distill their complex ideas,

     “Sometimes they know too much and they can't figure out, how do I get five hours’ worth of content down to 15 minutes. What's the most important thing. And then how do I structure it so it's compelling and connects with the audience.“

And Kerri feels that just “being yourself” is harder than it seems,

     “What happens is people get up, and they don't become themselves. They either put on a persona and they're not very good at that. Or, when people get nervous or flustered, then bad habits emerge and sometimes they're not even aware of it.“

But, not to worry, a good speech coach can help by getting the presenter to be more self-aware and figuring out the difference between their “habits” and their “choices”.

Kristin doesn’t have a problem writing in other people’s voices, but she cautioned that it’s worth the time investment, even for busy Executives, to meet with their speech writer, so the writer can really get a sense of how you talk and how you think.

In addition to making presentations personal, there are some universalities to what make a good speech and a good presentation. Kristin spelled it our perfectly,

     “Good speeches are clear, concise, and compelling. So that means that the speaker has to get to the most important point right away. They need to explain why the audience should care. What's in it for them. Why does it matter? And then to be concise is also really important as a general rule. “

She also pointed out the importance of including stories, anecdotes, and emotions. Those, she said, are like “neon signs that tell an audience to remember this and that helps them really connect with an audience in an authentic and genuine way.”

Kerri added that presenters need to identify what their overall objective or goal is. “Is that a specific call to action? Is that an ideal feeling we want them to have when they leave? What is that?“

I also wondered what sort of mistakes these two pros saw time and again. Kristen says she often sees people apologize onstage,

     “I'm sure you guys have heard people say at the beginning of a speech, I'm sorry. I don't have more time. Or if I had more time, I would do X, or I'm sorry I'm so nervous. While all of these things just set the audience up to be disappointed when they don't know how much time you have in the first place, they don't know that you're nervous.“

Instead of apologizing, she suggests you smile, breathe, and move on. Kerri warned about starting your speech with telling people how excited you are to be here. It just causes people to emotionally shut down.

Finally, I asked them what sort of tricks they have up their sleeves that always seem to work, and Kerri told me about her pen trick,

     “If somebody is teetering back and forth physically a lot, we'll ask them to stick a pen under the ball of one of their shoes, and that can help ground them and become aware of what they're doing physically.“

Kristin said that when she interviews speakers she always ends by asking, “What's the one thing you want the audience to remember?” And she’s been surprised that more often than not, the answer is something the speaker hasn’t even mentioned during the entire interview!

Writing and rehearsing a speech might seem easy or natural, but when you hear from the pros, you realize what a difference they can make to not only make your speech better, but actually make it more like you!

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