Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Communicate Creative: How Watching the Food Network Can Improve You're Speaking

Are You Ready For a Throwdown?
The next series of blogs will be a departure from my hopeful observations of everyday life.  It has been on my heart and mind to share some of the tools and tips I've learned along way from speaking as a pastor and also a teacher.  Let me start off by saying I do not have the best voice, I sound kind of like Kermit the Frog I also do not have the rockstar good-looks of a Pete Wilson, I look more like that kid from Boy Meets World with the curly hair.

However, my hope is that these ideas can be used in any setting whether your audience is a class of 3rd graders or a congregation of 300 or more.

The TV I used to watch when I was single guy and the TV I watch as married man is very different.  One channel I find myself watching a lot more of than I did before is the Food Network.  It has come a long way from those early years of how to cook a turkey right for Thanksgiving.

The Food Network has developed wide palette of shows and also cultivated it's chefs to be as recognizable as their food.

I believe there are a number of key principles expressed in each of the signature shows from the Food Network that have a common thread from Home Cooking with Paula Dean to Good Eats with Alton Brown that can be used to help one become a better communicator.

Five Key Principles to Improve Your Speaking From the Food Network

1. Personal Connection

It seems almost every chef ties in their food to a personal story from their past.  The story doesn't outshine their medium but it does enhance it and draws you in.  When Bobby Flay talks about his hard working days as a sous chef, any person trying to break into a certain field can be inspired and connect with those stories.  I remember when I was in second grade, my teacher Mrs. Noel, shared a illustration in her lesson about how her husband liked to play video games.  I was hooked, and still remember that two decades later.  The personal illustration creates a personal connection.

2. The Cookbook Trap

When watching the Next Food Network Star I saw a number of aspiring chefs fall into the cookbook trap as they try to get noticed by seasoned chefs.  It's a trap I can fall into at times as well, especially when I am speaking in a setting that makes me nervous.  The cookbook trap is this, using other successful rescipes from other successful chefs, (i.e. the cookbook) and passing them off as your own.  It is one thing to be inspired by something you read or hear but to copy the exact way a person communicates or writes in a book and pass it off as your own is a crime.  People can notice a fake.  It robs your own development and robs your audience of something new, fresh, and inspiring.

3. Know the Clock

A show that is known for this concept and also has had amazing success for seven seasons is Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals.  Yes it is a show based on convenience, but there is another principle conveyed; trust.  People know that within 30 minutes Rachel will deliver on her promise.  As a communicator we need to stick to our promise of the time given.  Long does not always equal great.  Going over the expected time can cause the listener to tune you out.  Closing concisely and on time respects the audience and the individuals who gave you the authority to speak.  Honoring the time given shows that you can be disciplined and that your message is not just about you; it is and always should be about your audience.

4.  Share the Ingredients 

People want to know how to make the meals they see on TV and people want to know how to apply the lesson to their lives.  Claire Robinson's Five Ingredient Fix is a show based all around a meal that has just five ingredients. It's simple, popular and my wife has made many meals from watching this show, and they were great meals.  Sharing the ingredients is all about giving the practical takeaway.  This can be expressed clearly as you transition your points along the way or can be summed up clearly at the end of your lesson.  Never assume your audience will just "get it." Be intentional and take a little extra time to be clear and practical.

5. Signature Style

You are designed a certain way and have a uniqueness that only you can bring to your field.  Your personality, background, and experience will shape what you share.  Be confident in expressing those tools that you already have and stick to them; be you.  This is the X Factor that the Food Network is always looking for in the next signature chef because each chef on the Food Network is known for a signature style.  Bobby Flay is known for Southwest flavors, Alton Brown is known for food science, and Paula Dean is known for Southern style home cooking.  What will you be known for?

I hope you will find these ideas to be encouraging and practical for you to lend to your own speaking style.  These are not the only tools to developing a great speaking style, but I believe they can be very useful.

The next blog will discuss the tech-side of communicating visually.


  1. nice post! I've often noticed too the broad range of vocabulary these hosts/judges/etc. on Food Network have. I've learned several new words from them!

  2. Me too... Now if only I can cook rice properly ;-)

  3. Just count yourself lucky you don't look like this guy http://www.timemachinetoys.com/toypics/friartuck.JPG ;)

    Great thoughts, Al.

  4. Thanx man, and that pic is hilariously awesome. Father Hipster

  5. I just watched The Kitchen -Sunny n Katie have very grating voices- can't watch because of them. the other 3 are great. poor copy of the chew. those hosts are fun n great show. sorry:-)