Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Winning Anyway in Kuala Lumpur - A Look Back

I've been back for about 8 days - and I've had a chance to more fully digest the 2014 Toastmasters Convention, and specifically, this year's World Championship of Public Speaking. Here's the rundown:

FIRST - the results - I didn't place in my semi. I came up fourth in the order, and two of the first three had similar themes to mine - enough so I actually mentioned it in my own speech. My humor fell flat - whether a cultural aspect, the late hour after a day of contests, poor timing on my part, sameness - I don't know for sure - I just know the strength of this speech simply WASN'T there on this night.

Who did win? Dennis Wright, out of Maryland, scooped up Third, Kuala Lumpur's own Palaniappa Subramamian took 2nd (he was 2nd to Ryan Avery in 2012's Finals), and Chris Woo, out of Brunei, took first, punching his ticket to the Finals. Did I agree with these results? Doesn't matter. I do agree that all three were deserving of being in the Top 3, and that my own speech, on this day, was not.

SECOND - I was prepared not to place - but yes, there was a glimmer when I didn't take 2nd or 3rd that I might have pulled it off. I also had strong hopes for my friend Douglas Winter to pull the upset. I had hoped, going into the results, that Douglas and I might at least place. I'm not depressed, as I have been in the past, over the results. My feeling are a bit mixed about competing going forward - but I'll address that further down.

THIRD - The Controversy - Chris Woo, the winner of our semi was the WCPS contestant who 'had no speech' in the Finals. I don't know if he had one he dumped, or just wasn't ready, or what. He apologized long enough to qualify, and received a lot of sympathy and support from the audience. He's only been in TM for six months, and may have just been overwhelmed.

We can all sit back and say 'he should have been ready', or 'he should have just given a speech of any kind that wasn't an apology', or even 'he should have let the 2nd place person in his semi compete' - but at the end of the day, the decision was his (a sentiment Palaniappa, echoed on his own Facebook stream), had no real 'right or wrong' aspect to it, and he will have to move forward with it.

FOURTH - The Finals - they could have been interesting had I won my semi. For one thing, one of my speeches featured the Flash and the Avengers Movie, whereas the first speaker opened with a story about wanting to be Green Lantern (who is Flash's best friend, fyi). Don't know how I would've handled that one.

I See Something in You - but I don't know what it is!

In addition, Kwong Yue Yang used his speech from 2011 - which won him the semi he and I competed in together, to win 2nd place in the WCPS (for the 2nd time, as he took 2nd to Jock Elliott in 2011). I don't know if I would have liked losing to that speech again, and wonder if I could have beaten that speech given a second try. What if, right?

FIFTH - the winnerDananjaya Hettiarachchi from Sri Lanka, which had a HUGE contingent at the conference supporting not just him but Balraj Arunasalam, who ran for 2nd Vice President of Toastmasters, and won, was a pretty clear cut winner by my own judgement, as well as the audience reaction. I believe Kwong had a puncher's chance, especially if he'd been later in the order, but I think the right speaker won on this particular day. 3rd place winner Kelly Sargeant gave a fun and timely speech that stood out, despite her theme being touched on by a speaker later in the order.

I've often said that if you run the contest the next day, or mix the order, or change the judges, the results will change as well - it's that close. This year, I don't think it was that close. Kwong might have won twice if the contest were run 10 times - but Dananjaya would have won all other 8 times. 3rd place may have varied wildly - the rest of the speeches were very close in quality of message and delivery, though Chris pretty much took himself out of the running with his choice not to give a 'contest speech'.

LESSONS for NEXT TIME - if there's a next time:

A. No recycled speeches - I've made it to the semi's three times ('09, '11, '14) without writing a new speech. Mostly because I've moved so much. Clearly, while it's been successful to a point, it's not enough. It's time for me to build some new material - which may take a year.  Or five.
B. No fund-raising - if I can't pay my way, I won't compete. I have no real qualms with fund-raising. It does take time and energy, however. I'd also like to be in a financially safe place the next time I compete.
C. No roommate - I was blessed to room with my District's Lt. Governor of Marketing, Darryle Brown, but I like my privacy.
D. Three speeches, not two, regardless of the contest requirements. What wins in your District won't necessarily win in the semi-finals. The audience is just too different. I don't know how many of this year's winners used their District Speech - I just know I probably won't do so again.


A. My Wife's Unwavering Support :)
B. Meeting so many friends, and so many new friends.
C. Dinner with Douglas Kruger, Conference Speaker, Car Enthusiast, and owner of the most sonorous voice I've ever heard.
D. Coffee with Doug Winter and Caroline Lyngstaad, both fellow Semi-finalists from my heat, on Saturday. Nothing like getting three motivational speakers together to encourage each other after losing!
E. My District's support - with funds, feedback, and friendships.

I sense evil afoot! - No, Kingi, that's just my New Foot Smell!

F. Pictures with so many old and new friends, including Kingi Biddle :)
G. Safe travels to and from, and the opportunity to watch a BUNCH of movies I missed in the theatres, including The Chef, which was tremendous.
H. The knowledge that my appearance in SPEAK the Movie matters to so many, and that Win Anyway has a worldwide reputation.

Overall, while the end results weren't all I'd hoped, indeed, there have been, and will be, many other victories involved. I went out there, I Spoke, I Delivered - and didn't chase the wrong trophy.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Speak & Deliver in Kuala Lumpur

I've been busy - a bit too busy, perhaps - getting ready for the semi-finals of the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking in Kuala Lumpur on August 21.

Lots of practices, lots of fundraising, all on top of regular life with six kids.

In about 11 hours, I'll be on a plane out of Denver headed toward Tokyo, before switching planes to head to KL, where I'll arrive at 4 am Tuesday.

Thursday night, at 7 or so, my contest will start, and by 9, I'll know if I'm headed back to the Finals Saturday morning as a contestant or an observer.

I've been in this position before. Seven times previously, to be precise. But this year is different for me. I'm less focused on the trophy, and more focused on the message, and on the joy of the journey, as cliched as that might sound.

91 of us are going to be competing Thursday, and only 9 will advance to the Finals, and out of them, only 1 will crowned World Champion. The rest will be slightly celebrated by their friends and family, and even their local districts - but the overall feeling will be disappointment for most, and a feeling of being a downright 'loser' for others.

Nevermind that all of them will have won their District Contests, and 8 of the final 9 can say they made it to the Finals, and two of them can even say they finished in the top 3 in the WORLD. They will be branded by some, and perhaps by themselves, as LOSERS.

NOT ME. Not this year. There's a whole movie out there where I let myself be branded as a 'loser' in this competition - albeit a loser who never gives up. This year, that's just not going to happen.

How can 91 winners become 90 losers and a champion at the hands of 100 or so judges who are imperfect at best in their ability to objectively judge? How can 91 winners become 90 losers when the difference could literally be a handful of points between 1st and 'last'? How can 91 winners become 90 losers when all of them likely worked their tails off, and ended up giving a strong speech with a message that was important to the audience?

The contest is a zero-sum game, but we don't have to play along, my fellow contestants. We were winners from the minute we decided to enter our club contest - all 30,000 of us. We are winners for working the last several months to represent our districts, our families, ourselves in this contest.

A trophy should not define us. A trophy will not define me. Let the winner win - and rejoice. But let the rest of us remember not to chase the wrong trophy, and Win, Anyway.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Speak Up For Your Business - by Michelle Mazur - Book 22 of 52 in 52

Yet another book not on my list, but just released, and directed straight at those who read Speak & Deliver!

Speak Up for Your Business comes with an inherent promise - that you can take the skills within and improve your business, either your own business, or the business of your career. It's a tough promise to make, and tougher still to fulfill.

Broken into four parts, Mazur covers 'Speaking Up for Your Business Mindset', 'Crafting Your Transformational Talk', 'Speak Your Story', and 'Showtime'. Before diving in, however, she provides an introduction that prepares us for what's to come, both by building up her own credibility as a PhD, a coach, and a speaker in her own right, but even more importantly by writing in her own unique, transparent style. She's irreverent, rebellious, silly, and, above all, a fan of Duran Duran. And she owns it.

This may sound a bit bizarre, but it is a real treat to read a book by an author who, while taking her subject seriously, doesn't have to take herself, or even us as the reader, as seriously as most 'educational' books will. She's not afraid to say what she thinks, or to have fun with us as she brings us her content.

Love this. Even with all the purple.
This is even more apparent as she talks about, in Section One, 'The End of Sleazy Selling' and 'Embracing Your Inner F-bomb'.

It is this style that makes the book unique, enjoyable, and ultimately successful - while she covers familiar ground to speaking junkies, including her own formula for overcoming nervousness (six whole steps!), building a speech, insights into storytelling, prep work to connect with your audience, finding your why, etc. - her personality makes it a fresh and lively introduction to the newer speaker, and a breezy reminder to the veteran of what we may have forgotten.

Perhaps the most valuable section, to me at least, perhaps in light of my own current circumstances, is her chapter on practicing. She offers some unique ideas and strategies that I'll be adding to my toolbox.

Does 'Speak Up For Your Business' deliver on it's promise? Can a business professional pick up the book and then go out and deliver a better presentation? Absolutely. And if you aren't ready to hire her by the end of the first 25 pages, you will be by the end.

Will the average Toastmaster find value here? Again, absolutely. Can't figure out your next speech? Not sure your stories are good enough? This book addresses that and more.

Will a professional speaker find something to make them think? I hope so - frankly, there are a lot of bad speakers getting paid out there, and if we have to listen to them, is it too much to ask that they know how to tell a story, use power point properly, and understand us as an audience?

Now, before I get accused of being all sunshine and light, it's not without imperfections. Personally, I would've liked an occasional case study. While Mazur occasionally brings up clients, a more clear-cut display of before/after and problem-solving would have added some further credibility to her ideas and methods. She's also trying to cover a tremendous amount of ground without overwhelming us, or making us go pick up a sequel. Pt. II is a whole book for most authors, and I hope she goes into further detail in her next book, as 200 or so pages just isn't enough for all she has to offer.

As I often discuss in these reviews, Mazur's book is a wonderful case-study for those of us who want to be professional speakers. A Google search for the publisher shows that this is a step above a 'self-published' book (as mine are), but not officially printed by a major publishing house. This effects neither the presentation of the information or the authority of the source - something we all need to keep in mind.

It's also derived, as she admits herself, largely from her blog - Dr. Michelle Mazur - one I've seen transform over the last couple of years. It's a technique more of us can employ, as long as we don't simply reprint post after post, as I've seen a few other, more mainstream, authors attempt. If I wasn't a blog reader, and she hadn't talked about it, I would have simply thought 'book'.

I give 'Speak Up For Your Business' 4 out of 5 stars - a quality book worth picking up, particularly if you want to use speaking to promote your business. Enjoyable and informative the whole way through, even for this quickly-becoming-curmudgeonly speaking book connoisseur.

(Editor's note: Michelle and I have worked together in the past, and I count her as a personal friend. She sent me her book after I requested it, but I certainly would have purchased a copy on my own.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Instant Influence by Michael Pantalon - Book 21 of 52 in 52

I wonder if the person who recommended I read Instant Influence really wanted me to read the Robert Cialdini classic 'Influence', which was turned into an audio program called 'Instant Influence'?

Regardless, this is what I picked up, and I'm glad I did. The most important part of speaking is persuasion, being able to influence the audience towards your ideas, solutions, strategies, etc. One of my favorite books in this genre is Dave Lakhani's 'Persuasion - The Art of Getting What You Want', and persuasion is one of the core concepts discussed in any sales books, be it 'Ziglar on Selling' or Gitomer's 'The Sales Bible' or even, on a more personal note, 'The Five Love Languages'.

Michael Pantalon offers up a proven formula to influence others, backed up by his own anecdotal evidence, including trainings, employee interactions, and his efforts to get his dad to stop smoking. He presents it in a way that drew me in immediately, as he described his presentation of his ideas to a tough audience, and walked us through his efforts, obstacles, and ultimate triumph. Essentially, the book is written to persuade and influence us, not just inform us, which is both appropriate and a tremendous example to the rest of us looking at writing our first, or next, book.

So what's his process? Six questions:

1. Ask, "Why would you change?"
2. Ask, "On a scale from 1 to 10, how ready are you to change?"
3. Ask, "Why didn't you choose a LOWER number?"
4. Ask, "When you picture the change already having occurred, what do you see?"
5. Ask, "Why is that important to you?"
6. Ask, "What is the next step, if any?"

Questions designed to keep the subject from getting defensive, to keep us, and influencers, in touch with the heart of our subject, and to, answer by answer, help the subject walk themselves right into the end result we as the influencer want them to reach.

As speakers, pay special attention to #4 - picturing the change. If we aren't getting our audience to picture the result we're trying to get to reach, and to find the importance in it (Step #5), we aren't getting through the way we want to.

The book is filled with examples, and a large amount of rationalization and reasoning behind each question and how they may be answered. The best part? You can use it on yourself!

Seeing the series of questions, you might think it's overly simple. It is, to a degree, until you start considering the answers you can get, and the personalities you'll deal with. While some books serve to just add padding around some basic principles, such as the two recently-reviewed books, The Go-Giver and The Four Agreements, 'Instant Influence' makes itself invaluable as a whole, not just a process.

Available on Audible, which is how I listened to it, this is a must add to your library as a speaker.

5 Stars out of 5.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Imposter Syndrome

"I haven't succeeded enough..."

"I'm not a financial success..."

"I have too many problems..."

"I've never been the head of a (team, company, country, non-virtual universe)..."

"I'm too (young, old, whatever)..."

"Who would want to listen to ME?"

Have you ever said the above? Or a version of the above? I know I have. And sometimes I still do. I hear it from clients all the time. Not just some clients - almost ALL my clients, regardless of what they want to speak about.

It's usually followed by a discussion centering around 'what if my clients or my audience find out who I really am, and what I really haven't done?' and a desire to just throw hands up in the air, toss speaking dreams in the trash, followed by a quick trip to the refrigerator for some ice cream consolation.

Feeling like an imposter, particularly when we're putting ourselves and our ideas out to the world, is a natural feeling for many. Whether it started in childhood with 'be seen and not heard' or criticism from fellow kids or even teachers and coaches telling us we weren't as good as we thought we were - heck, even just the experience of getting an answer wrong after raising our hand - can severely dent our self-esteem.

The world tells us 'there's always a bigger boat' - someone smarter, someone prettier, someone just plain better than US - and we're better off to just lie low and let THEM do what WE wish we were doing.

It's safer that way. Less hassle. And the only person who knows we're a coward, a wimp, a fraidy cat failure - is ourselves.

Problem is, it isn't true. At least, not completely.

If you're sharing your thoughts, your experiences, your conclusions - you're not an imposter. "Even if you aren't always living completely by your thoughts, experiences, and conclusions?" you ask. Yes, even if. None of us is perfect. We don't always make the extra sales call. We don't always communicate perfectly. We cheat on our diets. Occasionally, we even straight-out fail. That makes us human.

The key is in our authenticity and intention. Are we telling the truth? Are we wanting to live by that truth? Perfection isn't required, but intention is.

You may not be the only source, or even the best source, but you are a VALUABLE source. No matter what their standing, what there level of experience, all speakers are imposters, to some degree, and you can almost always find a better expert, a smarter person, or even just a better presenter.

The real challenge is accepting the truth above, and then deciding how you're going to deal with it, how true you decide to make it, based on how you market yourself in your speaking career. If you're broke, and you want to tell the world how to make money, you're an imposter to varying degrees. Yes, you can be teaching a proven system from someone else, which makes you more viable, but you better be on your OWN way to financial security as you teach others.

If you're not in shape, don't talk about getting in shape, unless you used to be in shape, and can share how you got out of shape.

If you've been married eight times, depending on the reasons, you may or may not want to talk about effective dating, relationship communication, or the care and feeding of your spouse.

Get the point? Stay in your areas of experience, and don't promise more than you've accomplished.

I promise my clients will become better speakers, because I have, and continue to become, a better speaker. I don't promise they'll become worldwide millionaire speakers, since 'I is not one', as my grandaddy would say, but I can share the techniques I've seen from those who have done it.

I give keynotes about Winning Anyway, because I do that on a daily basis, in my relationships, finances, physical life, and even in my competitive career competing for the World Championship of Public Speaking.

It's still easy to feel like an imposter, knowing one day I'm figuring out how to fix my car and the next I'm booking a ticket to Malaysia, that in the morning I'm dealing with insurance issues and at night I'm emceeing a public celebration.

But that's real life. We aren't always who we APPEAR to be on stage, at work, in public in general. We're impostersExcept we're not- as long as who we are UNDER the appearance remains constant and true. As long as our integrity is intact, our character consistent, and our promises kept.

Be the best you for your audience - they're busy trying to be the best them, most likely. Give them your message, your life, your passion, your experience, your failures, your lessons - give them the authentic YOU, even if you're wrapped up in the imposter that takes the stage - so they can take reality back with them into their lives, where it will still exist, still matter, once they return to who THEY really are outside of the room you've spoken in.

Monday, June 30, 2014

What's It Going to be Like in Malaysia? An Interview with Loghandran Krishnasamy

As I prepare for competing at the 2014 Toastmasters International Convention for the coveted title of World Champion of Public Speaking, I thought I better get the lay of the land a bit. This is the first convention outside of the North American continent, and it's all the way on the other side of the world! (At least, MY world)

In 2008, I competed with Loghandran Krishnasamy, who ended up taking 2nd in the world - and it just so happens he lives in Kuala Lumpur. I figured, hey, why not give him a call and find out what I need to be aware of, from the weather to the food to the culture to the tourist dangers. Then I figured, hey, why not record it and let EVERYONE know? Fair's fair, after all. So below is our phone call - complete with answers to all my questions, and a healthy dose of coaching, to boot.

We hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Did Admiral McRaven REALLY Speak & Deliver?

Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, BJ '77, ninth commander of U.S.Special Operations CommandThe commencement speech by Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, BJ '77, ninth commander of U.S.Special Operations Command, has been making both the internet and TV news blurbs today, with the video of his commencement speech at the University of Texas. I happened to see (not hear) it on CNN as I was doing my 20 minutes on the stationary bike at Planet Fitness today.

Now I've seen and heard it - and I'm both impressed by the content and depressed that this speech is all it takes to get the world all a-Twitter about a speaker. Before I break down my thoughts - here's your chance to watch it yourself.

First, let's focus on what Admiral McRaven did well:

A. Strong Start - even though he started with 'thank you's'. If he'd just started with 'It's been almost 37 years to the day...', he would have been fine. Really. But I digress - the power of three started him well as he went to connect: the headache from the party, his girlfriend/now wife, and the humorous twist about his own commencement speaker. He let them know he 'got' them, and gave a promise - that he would be short. 20 minutes? Yeah, it's a TEDtalk - so short enough.

B. Promising Premise - that we can all make a difference, combined with a 'proof' story of soldiers that make decisions that affect not just individuals, but generations. He then promises us that we don't have to be in the military to make the difference, and 'asks permission' to tell us how. An old method, but smoothly done with just a touch of self-deprecation from this 'old sailor'.

C. Point, Story, Point, Story - in the grand tradition of public speaking for the last 100 years and more. It's not just the structure that was effective, but the choice of stories - starting with 'If you want to change the world make your bed' kept the talk from being immediately dismissed as too serious or overly dramatic. Further stories alternated between third-party and personal, and all served to support is overall premise.

D. Dressed the Part - like it or not, the uniform gave him more credibility that a long introduction (which may have actually happened, granted) paired with him in a regular suit. Now, if he had not given a Navy Seal speech, he may not have worn the outfit - but why would he give any other speech?

E. Hired a Speech Writer - ok, I have no way of knowing this, it's a total assumption. It's well-written, concise, filled with strong transitions. If he wrote it, he's definitely got a future when he retires. There's nothing wrong with hiring a speech writer, especially if your main role in life is not speaking, and often, it's a much better alternative than spending all the time and stress of writing one yourself. Just make sure you find a writer that is willing to learn to write in 'your voice', vs. a copywriting propoganda machine.

F. Kept his Promise - through the point/story approach the Admiral provided instruction, and through his closing 'ring the bell' metaphor, and a cursory mention of others who have made a difference, he gave us a call to action, both of which brought the audience to a point of closure and certainty that they could, as he promised, make a difference.

What he could have done better:
A. Eye Contact - perhaps it's the hat, perhaps its the camera angle. But I really think it's simply that he's attached to his script. More practice would help with that, and a bit more trust in himself. Trust that he knows his stories, particularly his personal ones, well enough not to need the notes. After all, what is his audience going to do, call him out on telling them wrong?

B. Vocal Variation - I know, he's in the military, and he used his 'voice of authority'. Constantly. Virtually no variation of range. It's wasn't monotone in a 'Bueller, Bueller, Bueller' sense, but it was extremely even, despite so many opportunities to go loud or quiet, faster or slower, and higher or lower in pitch. Much of his material that could have brought large amounts of laughter (munchkin boat crew, sugar cookies, and jumping down the rope headfirst, in particular) failed to do so because he was so blasted serious the whole time. Vocal cues (and, y'know, an occasional SMILE) let us know it's ok to laugh.

C. Been Shorter - Yes, I said he kept it to a TEDtalk, but he could have shaved off 5 minutes without losing much. Had he leveraged his humor better, I wouldn't have had an issue with the time, though. Laughter make any speech seem shorter.

D. Identified our Bell - 'ring the bell' is a pretty common metaphor in a military speech. What bells will his audience face? A quick round of three examples, even a humorous example in the end, followed by a repeat of the 'ring the bell' concept, would have anchored the thought in the minds of his audience in their own terms, giving them more traction with the idea, and a better chance of retention of the meaning, not just words.

Is this a great speech? No, I don't think so. Is it a strong speech, with an important message, that will be remembered for awhile? Yes, certainly. Is it better than 90 percent of what passes for a great speech these days? Almost without a doubt.

Could it have BEEN a great speech? ABSOLUTELY.

It all comes down to the element of delivery.

That's what I strive for in my speaking, and in my clients speaking - matching strong content with great delivery - so that they work together to create a truly great speech. That doesn't mean there aren't a lot of good speeches out there. Nor am I trying to tell you that this speech is a bad speech. It's a very good speech.

One I wish had been GREAT.


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