Thursday, January 15, 2015

Nobody Cares About You!

Believe it or not, it's true - not single person in your audience gives a whit about you. You and your story. You and your success. You and your obstacles. You and your genius.

Even if your mom, spouse, or children are in the audience - they don't care about you either.

Humans are a egotistical lot. There's an old saying - 'your favorite word is your own name' - even if you don't like your name, when you hear it, you immediately come to attention. Heck, with six kids, if I just hear the word 'Dad' in any space I'm in, I start looking around!

We may like you. We may even want to hear you tell us about your eight years in the oval office, your climb to the top of Mt. Everest, your triumphant rescue of a Fortune 500 Company.

But only if it affects...US. 

It's the first thing I have to work with my clients on when they tell me how passionate they are about their messages, how amazing their experiences are, and how mind-blowing their approach to life is. To THEM.

My response? "So. What? Why do I care?"

Because in the end, your audience needs a reason to care that is in their self-interest - because they only want to hear what you have to say if it benefits THEM.

Those benefits don't have to be major. They may simply come in the entertainment value of your talk. More likely, for the average Non-Celebrity Keynote Speaker, the benefits will come in the form of your process - your solution to their problem, their pain.

Their problem. Their pain. Those are the money words.

Where can they find their pain in what you're sharing? You have to ask yourself that because it's your job to show them their pain in the beginning of your presentation. To give them a reason to care, to listen to you as opposed to playing Candy Crush on their smart phone for the next 45 minutes.

If you ARE a celebrity speaker, their pain may simply be that they don't understand how you got to be you. Envy. So you let them know right away you're going to give them behind-the-scenes access to being you, so THEY can find hope that THEY can be more like you.

For the non-celebrity speaker (that is, most likely, you and me)...
Here are a few popular topics, and some ways to Poke Their Pain:

Marketing - without it, you have no business. Doing it wrong can bankrupt you. Your competition is probably doing it better than you.

Leadership - the hardest thing you'll ever do. Fail in this, and you can't reach your goals. Fail as a leader, and you feel horrible about yourself. Fail in this, and your company will fail with you.

Communication - poor communication destroys companies, slows productivity, and sours relationships of every kind.

Speaking - what if you had an amazing message, and spent your own life sharing it with an audience of one - the one in the mirror?

Quilting - how many hours do you spend hand-stitching? How long can you work until your arthritis acts up, forcing you to stop, and putting you behind on your Christmas gifts to your 26 grandchildren?

It's not that hard to find the pain - most any topic pertains to our financial, physical, emotional, or spiritual well-being to some degree. But if we simply assume they'll know the pain we're talking about, we'll lose most of the audience pretty quick, and miss our opportunity to bring them immediately into our presentation. Point out their pain, and then....

...swoop in with empathy.  You've been there. You understand their predicament. You share a short promise to them that by the end of your presentation, they'll know how THEY can get through it, and by the end of the speech, they be begging to know exactly how YOU got through it. Promise them they'll have solutions for their marketing, their leadership, their communication, their speaking, and even a better idea of how to climb Mt. Everest. Though probably not all in the same speech...

Promise them, and then deliver, PAIN RELIEF. That's right. As a speaker you're basically Aspirin.

Most of us get into speaking because, well, we like to hear ourselves talk. We love our message, and our stories. We often enjoy the attention. Those that successfully STAY in speaking learn to love their audience first, and use the result the audience will get as a filter for everything they say.

Whether you're building a speech or you have a message you've been giving for awhile now, take some time to ask yourself (or find someone who WILL ask you) "So What? Why Do I Care?"

Because until they have a reason to care...a pain that crystallizes their attention...they sure as heck don't want to hear how awesome your life is. As for your mom, spouse, and kids? They're just hoping you give them some credit for how awesome you are.

Because it's all about THEM!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Triumphant Return?

After coming home from the International Conference in August, I haven't done much speaking. In fact, other than a couple of 5-7 minute speeches in my home club toward the end of the year, I've really done NONE.

Over the weekend, I was an educational presenter for my District's TLI - Toastmasters Leadership Institute, and gave a 45 minute session (Unlock Your Keynote) designed to help TMs who want to get their message out to the world in a longer format. Twice, in fact. Once in Denver, then that afternoon in Colorado Springs.

Returning to the stage was extremely satisfying for me. I was glad, for one, that I was ABLE to stand for 45 minutes and deliver, without falling down. For those newcomers to the blog, I had back surgery back in September, which led in large part to my absence from the stage. I was certainly sore by the end of the day, but I rebounded pretty quickly the next day.

My speaking chops weren't terribly rusty, though as I run the experience through my head, there are a lot of things I would do differently, both content and delivery-wise. Isn't that always the way? I had a tremendous amount of positive, appreciative feedback, but I'm always self-critical. Heck, just looking at that picture, my first thought is 'wow, I can tell I'm up 20 lbs since Malaysia'.

One of my challenges, in Toastmasters, at least, is selling from the stage. I didn't bring any books, didn't even ask for information - though I did finally use a handout with some contact info. It's so wrong, I know. It goes against everything I teach my clients to do.

There's an old saying about never being a prophet in your home town - perhaps I've mentally turned that word into 'profit' in my mind. I've never liked asking 'family' for money, and my local Toastmasters feel like close family to me. It's easier when a district (still family, but more like, say, second cousins) flies me out to speak - I know they WANT me to sell, typically, and that these folks don't get to see me all the time.

It's the local folk that I get a bit shy in front of. As a result, I think I actually told folks NOT to hire me as a coach, though my intent was to say there were lots of coaches out there, and I'd happily find them one that would match their style and personality, if I could.

Overall, it was nice to be back, and I'm looking forward to getting out in public a lot more in 2015. Time to actually make those phone calls to Rotary, etc., and get some bookings.

What will year look like? Do you have a plan to speak a certain number of times? Do you have places targeted to speak? Do you know who to talk to? Hmm. Maybe I'll talk more on that in my next post...

For now, I'm just happy to have had the chance to once again give to an audience. To Speak & Deliver!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Toastmasters Saturday: The New Year That Almost Wasn't

As I drove up to the auto dealership our club meets at last night, it was eerily quiet...and locked.

Down the way, were a few of my club members huddled around their cars in the cold, already wondering if and where we were going to hold our meeting - a meeting/party we had boldly scheduled at our normal 7:00 pm time, despite the holiday.

Smart phones out, we started looking for alternate venues. Whole Foods? Soon to close for the night? The local diner? Pretty loud and we couldn't bring in the food we had brought. Same for McDonalds, even though it had a private meeting room (the only one I've ever seen in a McDs, actually). One of our member just leased a meeting facility for weddings and events - but the heater was on the fritz.

It looked bleak, until our newest member volunteered his home, which was just about a mile away. His wife was with him (she's been a guest at all the meetings he, and their son, our second newest member, have attended), so he had immediate buy-in from the boss!

The only guest we expected had already been contacted with the change in plans, and while we started late, we got the meeting in - two speeches, topics, and all, followed by the party - all in the comfort of a wonderfully still-decorated holiday household.

Still - we got LUCKY. This was the New Year that almost WASN'T.

I've had similar situations in the past, and often they seem unavoidable. Building closings, problems with the heat, double-bookings, the person with the keys is detained or just doesn't show.

Is your club prepared for your next 'location crisis'?

Four items to consider at your next Officer Meeting:

1. Be Proactive, not Reactive. We should have verified building access for a holiday. Our SAA is new, but that's no excuse - I've been in 15 years, and I didn't even think about the potential issue - none of us did.

2. Have a Back-Up. Do you have a default second location? Find one close - and if it's a restaurant, maybe even have a meeting there once a quarter to keep it 'in the rotation'. A little variation in routine can be healthy, and having the goodwill of the owner always helps.

3. Have a Communication Plan. How will you let members know to re-route? Do you have a call list on your phone? An easily accessible email/text list? Will you leave a note behind for guests, or an actual person who can be late for the changed meeting time/place in said emergency?

4. Create a Flexible Culture. You never know what's going to happen. Not that long ago, the dealership pulled up all the carpet in the facility, and closed our room down, without notice. We survived that for a couple of weeks, but only because our folks are willing to go with the flow vs. throwing their hands up and cancelling. Flexibility starts at the top - you know, where leaders are made!

Our crisis had a happy ending. What are YOUR venue horror stories, and how have you solved them - or not?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

9 Questions to Help You Define Your Speaking in 2015

Image by Rush and Hugh Syme

Ah, the last day of the year. Or the first for my many friends on the other side of the world. A time when our brains often hit the reset button. We look back, and we look forward. 

I'm not going to spend time here to look back and forward for myself - I've done that in my Win Anyway blog - where all that belongs. Instead, I want to help YOU look back and forward, as you think about what you want your speaking life to be about in the next 12 months.

You may be an experienced, currently working speaker, or a Toastmaster looking to break out into the 'real world', or even a complete 'newbie' who just stumbled upon this particular post. It might be the middle of June, for that matter. That's OK - just start where you are, and ask and answer the questions below - and share your answers in the comments. No matter where you are on the journey, sharing your goals and accomplishments will serve to inspire you, and all of us.

9 Questions to Help You Define Your Speaking in 2015

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you rank your speaking skills now vs. a year ago? Where do they need to be for you to reach success a from now?

2) Are you a keynoter? A trainer? A coach? An information expert? How would you define yourself?

3) What do you want to speak about MOST?

4) How many times did you speak about was MOST interested you?

5) Do you know how what MOST interests you will most interest your AUDIENCE?

6) How many times did you speak last year? How many times outside of Toastmasters? How many times do you want to speak between now and Dec 31, 2015?

7) Did you get paid to speak or coach last year? How much do you want to make this year at either, or both?

8) How many products do you have to sell when you speak? If you could create ONE new product this year, what would it be?

9) Finally - what will you do again this year that worked in 2014, and what will you do different to ensure greater success in 2015?

Not sure how to answer? Or how to get the results IN your answers? Don't go it alone. Make the first different action you take going into next year be getting a coach on board with you - someone you trust, someone who's walked in the footsteps ahead of you.

Don't be sitting down a year from now frustrated that you're in the exact same place as you are right now if this isn't where you want to be.
Make 2015 the year you Speak....& Deliver!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

52 Books in 52 Weeks - 2014 Challenge Wrap-Up

Below is my list of 52 books (which turned into 61 as I added new books along the way) that I set a goal to read and review in 2014. I only made it through 39 books, with the final review posted earlier today - but I feel like it was a successful year of reading nonetheless.

If there's a link - it'll take you to the review. The others are 'deadheads', books I haven't finished or, mostly, haven't even started. Estimated stats are about 5000 actual book pages combined with 160 hours of audio.

I have 25 books left over to read - some of which might drop off - so I'm looking at suggestions for 2015. I will not be reviewing every book, but in my Win Anyway Blog I'll be keeping weekly updates of my goals next year, so if you check in there, you'll know what I'm reading, with a brief rating.

I WILL, however, continue to review speaking books and products here in Speak & Deliver - so if you want me to check something out, especially something you've written - let me know. 8 of the 39 books reviewed this year were from friends, who either sent me their physical or electronic version of their masterpiece.

Thank you for following me on this journey. I feel great about what I've been able to expose myself to this year. 2/3 of my reading covered speaking, marketing, leadership, and inspiration - all parts of our speaking industry. While I did get a fair amount of repeat info, each book invariably gave me something either new to think about, or a new way to think about something I already knew.

Finally - even though I didn't review them, I also got to get back to my first love - comic books - just a little bit over the last month or so. You may have heard me talk about 'The Flash' on my Win Anyway Podcast - I've gotten to read two graphic novels collecting various storylines - the first comics I've read in at least a decade.

Again - give me your recommendations - and stay tuned, I get everything read....eventually!

1. Under The Dome - Stephen King - I've gotten about halfway through this, but put it down last year. Now that it's a hit TV show, I suppose I should finish it...
2. Moby Dick - Herman Melville - A classic I've never read, perhaps appropriate for contest season.
3. Book yourself Solid Michael Port - I've never made it through this, because I want to actually do the exercises in it, not just browse it. Now's the time.
4. Think and Grow Rich61 & 62. The Law of Success, The Lost Prosperity Secrets, The Magic Ladder to Success - Napoleon Hill - delving into his other works, versus re-reading TAGR.
5. Black Book of Networking - Jeffrey Gitomer - it's been a few years - may choose the audible just to hear Jeffrey's encouraging voice.
6. From History's Shadow. A Star Trek book - Dayton Ward. A guilty pleasure I haven't allowed in years. TBD.
7. Presentation Zen - Garr Reynolds - hard to believe I haven't read this, actually.
8. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams - a SF/Fantasy Classic I have inexplicably never read.
9. The Complete Sherlock Holmes - Sir Conan Doyle - A book I've had for 30 years, just waiting for me to actually read it all. I've read a few stories, but not in the last 15 years.
10. The Message of You Judy Carter - My top speaking book of 2013, a must re-read resource.
11. Million Dollar Speaking - Alan Weiss - I'm about halfway through this on Kindle, need to finish it.
12. World Class Speaking - Craig Valentine - As with the above, halfway through.
13. The Element - Ken Robinson - highly recommended from this TEDTalk icon.
14. The Bully Pulpit - Doris Kearns Goodwin - saw this in Barnes and Noble a couple weeks ago, and have since had several friends recommend it. At 928 pages, I may have to listen to it instead...
15. The Slight Edge - Jeff Olsen - another motivational classic that has slipped under my radar.
16. 80/20 Perry Marshall - need to order it - the recommendation was through the roof.
17. Flowers For Algernon Daniel Keyes - a literary classic I have avoided, but will give a try.
18. The Giver - Lois Lowry - never heard of it, but it has potential.
19. The Long Walk to Freedom - Nelson Mandela - perhaps the must-read auto-biography of the year for me.
20. Salt Mark Kurlansky - I'm a bit leery of this, but perhaps it will add some flavor to my reading habits.
21. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak - no, I won't cheat and just rent the movie. Just.
22. Ishmael Daniel Quinn - Have no idea what to expect here.
23. Improv for Storytellers - Keith Johnstone - Always good to brush up.
24. Go Giver - Bob Burg - a short business metaphor book, I assume.
25. Instant Influence - Michael Pantalon - easily persuaded to read this.
26. The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg - expect it to take 7 weeks to read
27. Leaders Eat Last - Simon Sinek - I need more leadership reading, I believe.
28. Comedy Writing Secrets - Mel Helitzer - ...and always need humor brush-ups as well.
29. Dave's Way - Dave Thomas - why not? Can I read it while eating a Baconator?
30. The Alchemist - Paulo Cuelho - shocked I haven't read this yet, actually.
31. The Attitude Check - Heath Suddleson - I bet if he sent me a signed copy I'd read it faster and review it here on Speak & Deliver :)
32. Dirty Little Secrets - Sharon Drew Morgen - this one too...(she didn't send me a copy, but I read it anyway.
34. Ted:ology Akash Karia, Michelle Mazur - Akash is a prolific author, and it's time I spend some effort reading his work, and seeing what his ideas are, and how they can help my audience.
35. The Boy Behind the Gate - Larry Jacobson - another book I'd love to see come in the mail, wink wink.
36. Life of Pi Yann Martel - enjoyed the movie, but everyone says the book is better.
37. Unstoppable Nick Vujucic - been on my list a long time, actually.
38. The Barefoot Executive - Carrie Wilkerson - I've read the kindle, but want to listen to it and her dulcet, southern tones.
39. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook - Gary Vaynerchuck - loved Crush It - and Gary is a great reader, and often adds more to his audio books than what's in the printed edition.
40. Living an Exceptional Life Jim Rohn - always worth a listen.
41. Talent is Never Enough Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn - John Maxwell - back before I got involved with speaking, I bought a Maxwell book in preparation to become a manager. Since then, I've read nothing else from him. That changes this year.
42. Little Green Book of Getting Your Way - Jeffrey Gitomer - on Audible, most likely.
43. Decisive Chip & Dan Heath - listening to this now, actually, at least earlier today, at the gym.
44. The Four Agreements - Don Miguel Ruiz - long on my list.
45. Drive Daniel Pink - next one cued up on Audible

Audio Programs to Listen or Re-Listen to in 2014

46. Speaker Machine – Rick Butts/Felicia Slattery - with lifetime access, why not?
47. Wisdom Thesis - Rick Butts - see above.
48. Own the Stage - Darren LaCroix/Craig Valentine - worth a second look, always pumps me up.
49. How to Build a Keynote by Next Week - Darren LaCroix/Patricia Fripp - sharpen the saw. How to 
50. Outline, Design, and Deliver a Dynamic Sales Presentation Patricia Fripp - newly acquired, and looking forward to it.
51. Mastering Your Speech Lance Miller - probably need to watch this before seeing him at the training later this month.
52. Create Your Killer Keynote - Craig Valentine - more keynote info to just keep getting better.
53. Lady and the Champs 2013 - Various - about halfway through this.
54. Get More Laughs - Darren LaCroix - you can never laugh enough.

Extra Books & Programs Added on the Fly

55. The Media Training Bible - Brad Phillips - getting interviewed more in 2014 is a goal
56. Speaker Leader Champion - Ryan Avery & Jeremey Donovan - just cause I'm curious
57. Epic Content Marketing Joe Pulizzi - because I'm a marketing Junkie
58. Speak Up For Your Business - Michelle Mazur - cause, well, we're friends :)
59. Own Your Industry - Douglas Kruger - see above :)
60. amazon's Dirty Little Secrets - Greg Jameson - local author and friend
61. 11 Deadly Presentation Sins - Rob Biesenbach

2 Keynote Home Study Courses: Books 37 & 38 of 52 in 52

I had access to two keynote creation 'home study courses' this year, one by 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking Craig Valentine, another by 2001 WCPS Darren LaCroix and CSP, CPAE, and speaking legend Patricia Fripp. As a Keynote coach myself, I am always looking for additional ideas, techniques, and inspiration to guide me, and add to my own approaches to writing a keynote.

At the end of the day, there's only so many many models to write a keynote, and the more programs you go through, the more you'll hear much of the same information. But just as we get different things from the same types of books based on the author's point of view combined with our own place in life at the time of exposing ourselves to similar information, if we're intentional in our learning approach, we can get a great deal of benefits out of the right programs. The question now is -are these the right programs?

Let's start with Valentine's 'Create Your Killer Keynote Home Study Course' - which offers quite a bit of value for it's $247 price tag:
  1. More than 6 hours of step by step instruction on 5 audio CDs
  2. A sample audio CD with 2 of Craig's LIVE keynote speeches for reference
  3. The 9 Step Create Your Killer Keynote Graphic Model
  4. A 55-page Create Your Killer Keynote Handbook
  5. A 20-page Create Your Killer Keynote Compass to develop 30-60 minute speeches 
A quick caveat - I only had access to the Audio CDs, not the additional content - but I still got quite a bit out of this program.

Craig focuses primarily on techniques, structures, and keynote theory - he'll talk about a concept then back it up with bits and pieces from his own keynotes. The two keynotes provided on CD were very valuable to me, even though I'd heard most of it before, simply because I've seen him in person several times, and followed his free samples and Champion's Edge content. Getting it all together in front of an audience, and really being able to listen to his approach gave me great examples and more than a little inspiration to be out there more myself.

He also offers some interesting insights on creating an introduction that properly sets up your speech before you ever go on stage, provides an in-depth look at his
PARTS: Point, Anchor, Reflect, Technique, and Selling approach to creating points, and spends a fair amount of time on using activities to involve your audience, keeping them awake and connected. His instruction on creating a strong close was also quite strong, offering approaches designed to end on a higher note than many may be used to attempting.

I would have enjoyed hearing more guidance for the listener - well, ANY guidance, really - for developing their personal message - it felt more like a 'you know what you want to say, so here's how to say it' approach. I also would have enjoyed a little less selling on his part - he often suggests we buy his other programs to help us with other important speaking aspects. While this can be perceived as a value add, it came up too many times for my personal tastes.

Overall, however, this keynote course is a great value for the price, and for the speaker who believes they are zoned in on their message, the information, if followed, will certainly aid in creating a strong, valuable, and entertaining keynote speech.

Based on Audio-only, 4 Stars out of 5.

I had greater access to LaCroix & Fripp's 'Create Your Keynote by Next Week', fortunately. It includes a seven audio CD set, and a data disk with live speeches, transcriptions, tip-sheets, and a comprehensive workbook.

For me, getting a chance to hear both of these experts added a great deal of weight to this program. The format is essentially Darren interviewing Patricia, and then adding his own perspective and experiences where appropriate. Audio clips and case studies from BOTH are used throughout, again, to directly support the techniques discussed.

Their approach to keynote structure and theory is similar to Valentine's (though let's face it, Fripp probably heavily influenced Valentine - even he states he's a student, client, and friend of Fripp) - perhaps a little more streamlined.

What stood out to me in this program was it's comprehensive approach. An entire CD is devoted to helping us define what we want to say, and how we can ensure we're saying something our audience wants/needs to hear, and another that covers getting an audience and constantly improving the keynote you'll develop after going through the course.

Since I included some of Craig's sales copy, I'll toss in a bit from CYKBNW's page as well:

  1. The proven 7-step process based on over 40 years of speaking and coaching
  2. Interactive PDF: Fripp Speech Model® (Priceless! You’ll use it again and again!)
  3. All of Patricia Fripp’s proven, “content-generating” discovery questions (mining your life for powerful content)
  4. Easy-to-model, real-life examples
  5. Time-saving secrets for each step
  6. The common mistakes and how to avoid them
  7. Two keynote speeches for you to model
  8. Bonus CD: Patricia’s 17 customizing secrets
Create Your Keynote by Next Week  has a corporate feel to it - with significant information on marketing, ample examples from a professional environment, and a significant teaching component, as they walk you through your message creation. The questions they run through on the first disk alone are invaluable as you move forward to define your approach to your speaking business - one of the most forgotten aspects of keynote speaking is that is IS, after all, a BUSINESS.

At $297, it's more than worth the cost - honestly, when I went to look it up, I was expecting a $497 pricetag. If you're looking for more guidance on message and marketing, this program is ideal for you. 5 Stars out of 5.

An almost final word - you can't really go wrong with either product, as long as you know what you're getting before you buy. Getting them BOTH isn't going to break the bank, and will give you some diversity in teaching styles and lesson focus. I'm glad I've gotten to hear them both.

The actual final word - as good a these programs are, they can only augment, not replace, working with an actual coach. Real-time feedback and back-and-forth brainstorming, editing, and encouragement will help you get the most out of these and any 'do-it-yourself' program.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Get More Laughs - Darren LaCroix: Book 34 of 52 in 52

Again - not a book, but let's not pick nits as we approach years end.

Even though I've written my own book on humor, which Darren was kind enough to contribute to in interview form, one should never stand pat on their current skill set. Darren has quite the reputation in Toastmasters and NSA alike as a humorist, has spent countless hours on stage as a stand-up comic, and, oh yeah, is the 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking, for those who might not know.

So I figured his program on humor, 'Get More Laughs', might be worth my time!

The program is a recording, DVD and audio, of a seminar given a few years back, and offers a lot of interaction between Darren and his audience, with members getting up and trying out his tips, and getting feedback along the way, giving it a 'coach-in-a-box' feel as you go along.

He offers solid content throughout. Formulas to create humor, exercises for us to go through, examples of his own failures and successes, and a wonderful appearance by his humor mentor, Vinnie Favorito. He's a bit raw, but certainly a good source if you're looking to take your humor to the Comedy Club circuit, where Darren focuses a bit more on humor in platform speaking, defining it for us as 'for a comedian, the humor is the message, for a humorist, humor is the medium for the message'.

I will refrain from sharing too much of Darren's material here, though I have some copious notes in my Evernote folder. Still, you'll want to focus in on his '10 to get 2' concept, his excellent live exercises on the 'power of three', his strategies in working with the audience, both as call back material and in dealing with hecklers, and his 'Triangle of Wow'.

There are moments in this set when he absolutely shines as a coach - being extremely positive with people who sometimes just don't understand what he's trying to get them to do, and encouraging even the most unfunny attempts at using his tactics - knowing it is all about trial and error, and, like all good coaches, being willing to meet his participants where they're at in the process.

He also shows tremendous vulnerability in offering up a non-perfected humorous story of his own, and opening himself to critique by his audience - and he get ripped. It was pretty amazing to hear how critical folks were of his story, which I actually thought had a fair amount of potential. Two things stand out about that session - first, the great diversity of those in our audiences, who will hear what they want to hear, no matter how much we try to direct them, and second, Darren's tough skin, to be able to graciously handle the feedback.

Finally, a couple words of Darren's advice that will stand out to me going forward in speaking with humor:

"Your problem should be humorous, your solution serious"

"The effectiveness of a joke is inversely proportional to the words it takes to tell it"

For those who listen to everything Darren puts out, you will find some repetition as you go through the program. It is well-balanced, however, with new material, humor exercises, personal coaching from stage, and Vinnie's appearance in the program.

Overall, for this humor buff, I found my time well spent listening to the 15-CD set, even the 'Laffirmations' disc, which is a hypnotic-type of approach to teaching the lessons in the course.

4 and a half stars out of 5 - the only caveat being some rough production values on portions of the audio - but well worth your investment.

A quick disclaimer on this review: I only had access to the audio portion of this product, borrowed from a friend. I'm sure I missed some of it's effectiveness in missing the DVDs and the 'Giggle Guide'.


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