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.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Speaker Leader Champion - Book 13 of 52 in 52 Weeks - A Review

There's been a lot of hoopla around Ryan Avery & Jeremey Donovan's new book, Speaker Leader Champion - Succeed at Work Through the Power of Public Speaking, not in small part to Avery's attempt to set a Guinness World Record of Most Books Signed earlier in April. In fact, I purchased the book as part of the record-setting attempt.

It's also a big deal because most Toastmaster's World Champions don't have their own books, much less books that are published by a 'real' publishing house such as McGraw-Hill, and certainly not this fast. Avery's strategic choice to team with Donovan, who is also the author of How to Deliver a TED Talk, no doubt figured into the success of this book, and is a good lesson for the rest of us looking to break into the publishing world.

As I read through, I have to say I wasn't sure how much of the content was Avery and how much was Donovan. I reviewed Jeremey's book 'How to Win the World Championship of Public Speaking' last July, and Speaker Leader Champion read like an expanded 2nd edition, as they used World Championship Speeches to illustrate most of their 92 Speaking Tips, and interviews with the Champions themselves to add 44 Speaking Insights.

Let me say this straight away - I enjoyed the book, and much of it's content is spot-on, useful, well-illustrated, and will benefit the reader. The book works very well for readers who are Toastmasters, as so much of it is set in the TM competition venue, and if you want to compete, it's filled with gold throughout.

David Brooks, Lashunda Rundles, Mark Brown, & Darren LaCroix
are among the championship speeches in the book.
The 11 Chapters cover 'Selecting a Topic', 'Telling Stories', 'Using Humor', 'Amplifying Emotional Texture', and 'Getting in the Speaking Zone', and, of course, more - all using the Champs trophy-winning speeches as the proof of most of their points. They include the full scripts of several winning speeches, which makes this the first book I know of since I published Win Place & Show to include the entire copy of a WCPS Speech - in this case, three speeches each from the top three winners in 2006, including Ed Hearn's 'Bounce Back', which is mentioned but not reprinted in Avery and Donovan's book.

There is also a chapter on 'Designing Compelling Visual Aids', which, other than a bit of a tip of the hat to David Henderson's flight jacket and goggles, seems thrown in simply to satisfy the non-TM reader, as 'Big Stage' winning speeches rarely use props or visual aids at all, much less PowerPoint, Keynote, or Prezi.

Toastmasters, particularly those who compete, are going to love this book. If you're a non-Toastmaster reader, however, you'll have to filter through the competition-speak and mentally transfer the concepts to your speaking world. That may serve as a bit of an obstacle for 'real-world' readers who have never stepped foot into a Toastmasters club.

The book title offers two promises it fails to keep, in my opinion, as well. While 'Leader' is in the title, the book doesn't really touch on leadership, or how speaking lends to leadership. While both authors may be leaders, I don't leave with any ideas to make ME a leader. The words 'leader' and 'leadership' don't even show up in the Index.

In addition, the subtitle 'Succeed at Work Through the Power of Public Speaking' seems to be merely a way to pander to a corporate audience, as little in the book directly relates to speaking in the workplace, technical presentations, sales presentation, or even CEO speeches, beyond a quick mention of Steve Jobs in the opening chapter. While the tips in the book do transfer over to 'real world' speaking, HOW they transfer is only occasionally explained, and the benefit of becoming a better speaker in the workplace is given short shrift.

The authors do a fantastic job of dissecting the speeches themselves, and highlighting how their methods can become our methods, from Ed Tate's use of humor to Lance Miller's use of story to the stark differences between most of the Champion's speeches and Jock Elliott's 2011 winner, which was more subdued and 'old-style' that the others.

Still, a final disappointment came in their discussion of David Henderson's 2010 Championship speech. The analysis of David's speech is spot-on, discussing his use of emotion and his simplification of Sickle Cell Anemia for the audience - but leaves out an important point - that for all the emotion of his friend dying, that story was a fiction, the friend didn't exist, and therefore was more emotional manipulation, rather than true emotional storytelling.

An argument can be made that this doesn't harm the reader. Perhaps. But I also believe that discussing the issue of honest storytelling would have been extremely helpful to the reader. For more on this case, you can read my own blogpost on the matter here: The Speaker's Trust. Whether they made an active choice not to discuss this aspect of David's speech, which he openly admits, or simply didn't research it, is unknown.

Despite the aspects where I feel Speaker Leader Champion falls short, overall the book offers a great deal of value, and I do recommend it. Strongly, for Toastmasters - 4 1/2 out of 5 stars, a little less so for the regular reader - 3 1/2 stars.

What I hope to see next out of the 2012 champion is a bit of what I had hoped to get out of this book. That is, a book from his perspective, about his life, his experiences before Toastmasters and after, and what he has learned himself as he has launched his career. I want more Ryan, and less Champs. If his past record of producing content is any indication, I have high hopes that his next book, and hopefully more of HIS story, isn't far from being available to those of us who want to see the Real Ravery shine through.


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