I first ran this list a few years back. Here it is again, updated for 2012: what to get your favorite public speaking family member or friend. Following (in no particular order and at varying price points) are 10 suggestions for anyone who speaks, presents, or just worries a lot about speaking in public.
1. A year of Improv lessons
Great speakers are able to focus in the moment on the audience and the message – not themselves. And nothing improves a speaker’s ability to focus on that all-important moment like a year of Improv lessons. Improv is hard to do, very hard, but you don’t have to become an expert to benefit from the increased ability to be present on stage. And once you’ve done Improv in front of an audience, public speaking will seem comparatively easy work.
2. A Flip cam (or 2) to record speeches
The best way to improve your craft as a speaker – besides hiring a coach like me – is to record yourself speaking and then review the tape thoughtfully and honestly. Flip cams make it easy and inexpensive to do so – no more excuses! And they’re still available to buy, despite the problems the company has had. So snap one or two up today. Use the second one to record the audience, and you’ll learn a lot about how people react to your speech.
3. iPad and apps
While competitors have begun to put the heat on Apple and the iPad, it’s still your best bet for seamlessness and lots of app support. You can show slides, take notes, use the iPad as a teleprompter-like device, or as a white board. Bring your public speaker into the 21st century with this ultimate gift of the latest technology, and save room in his or her carry-on at the same time.
4. A photo shoot
Those headshots are out of date, face it. And the temptation to do it on the cheap and get your kid to take some shots in the living room with a point-and-shoot will yield cheap-looking shots. Give your speaker the gift of a professional photographer and get it done right.
5. A clothes shopping spree
You need to feel and look your best when you’re standing up in front of 500 pairs of eyes all looking to you for inspiration and wisdom. It’s worth spending some real money on a great outfit, and your speaker will thank you for it.
6. A great book
Since it would be immodest to nominate my own books, I’m going to propose William Safire’s Lend Me Your Ears as my 2012 choice for public speakers. It’s still the best collection out there of great speeches, and it will inspire your speaker-loved one to create even better presentations.
7. A session with a voice coach
Your voice is your instrument if you’re a speaker, and most people don’t treat their voices very well – and have no idea how to do so. Most speakers make a number of unforced errors due to misuse of their voice, or failure to use it fully. A really thoughtful gift is to give your speaker a couple of voice coaching sessions to help him or her let that voice soar to its greatest heights.
8. A half-dozen thumb drives
Last time I checked, you can pick up thumb drives with 8 gigs or more storage on them for $20 – 30 US. You may well be able to do better than that. What’s more, you can get them in all kinds of cute styles and configurations, so you can even theme this gift appropriately. The idea is to have all the necessary backups of presentations, videos, marketing information and so on easily portable and safely replicated – and ready to give away to curious speaker bureau reps.
9. A new speaker video
Speakers are forever chasing a better speaker video. The last one has less-than-perfect sound, or it was a bad hair day, or you muffed a line at a critical point. Whatever the reason, speakers are never happy with their videos. And they’re always out of date. So find a video company and do it right. With a little shopping around, you can find a good company at a great price.
10. A membership in Toastmasters
Toastmasters is a great place to practice your public speaking art, especially for relatively inexperienced speakers and for people trying to get help with nerves. You’ll get lots of low-stakes practice, and that’s just the ticket for perfecting your art before you hit the big time.
What gifts have you thought of for that favorite public speaker in your family or group of friends? Let me know and we’ll get the word out before Christmas.