Friday, January 20, 2012

Toastmasters Friday: Speak the Movie - A Review

Imagine having open heart surgery, without any draping, on the 50 yard line of the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, in front of a packed house, with you on the big, BIG screen. That's what it was like for me watching the movie "Speak" last night. My innermost thoughts, my most personal life events, naked and open to the public. That's what happens when you let a camera crew follow you everywhere.

"Speak" is a documentary about public speaking from Paul Galicia and Brian Weidling and their company Tumbleweed Entertainment. As they researched their movie, they investigated Toastmasters, and then the World Championship of Public Speaking - and it was this event that they found to be the perfect setting to center their movie around. In 2008, they spent the summer interviewing the eight regional winners from around the country, and followed their journey to the Toastmasters International Convention, where they added the two inter-district winners to the mix.

I, of course, was one of those Finalists, representing District 15 and Region I (at that time, Utah, Idaho, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and Northern California) in the contest. The others were LaShunda Rundles, Colin William, Robert MacKenzie, Henry Flowers IV, Katherine Morrison, Loghandran Krishnasamy, Martin Presse, Charles Wilson, and Jock Elliott, who (spoiler alert) won the World Championship in 2011. For those of you looking for additional behind the scenes information, check out the free ebook we wrote together, "The Finalists", by signing up for my newsletter at

After three and a half years of waiting, of hearing rumors and reviews of 'rough cut screenings', it was a tremendous weight off of me to have the actual movie (at least a 'screening copy', as the watermark said every so often on the video) on my TV for me to watch.

How do you 'review' a movie after you discover that you are one of the two primary storylines? What objectivity can exist as you watch a past version of yourself go through the experiences I did that summer? I honestly don't think I can. Below are some of my thoughts after a night to sleep on it:

1. The movie starts out focusing on the fear of public speaking, but quickly moves into the championship plot, and adds the 'find your voice' component. The two weave together well, and by the end of the film, their point is made.

2. It is clear that some hard cuts were made. How do you have a movie with 10 characters and give them all equal time? Everyone in the competition got screen time, but it was a 2-6-2 ratio - 2 had a bunch, 6 had enough to be satisfied, 2 were more cameos, but their time was still meaningful. I'll let you watch it for yourself to figure most of those out, but I bet you can figure out the two with the most screen time.

3. Great contributions from various Toastmasters, World Champions, and outside speaking professionals. Their spots worked well to transition from point to point.

Robert MacKenzie, photo by Joshua Pickering
4. The backstories on so many of the other contestants, from Robert MacKenzie to Charlie Wilson (and his wife!) to Martin Presse really showed the diversity of Toastmasters, and the different paths we can all take chasing after a similar, though hardly identical, destination.

5. Watching LaShunda Rundles journey both before and after the competition was fascinating and emotional. She lives the role of a heroine, and it comes through in this film.

LaShunda Rundles, photo by Joshua Pickering
As for me? My public open heart surgery? Well, to be honest, there were times I could hardly recognize myself. The movie truly shows where my mindset was at that time - a man desperate to turn things around financially, hoping to use the championship as a means to market a message that mattered. It shows my wife, and her unwavering support of my journey to chase my dream. It shows my honest emotions in the midst of my failure. It shows, in the end, the beginning of a mindset shift, from 'have to' to 'want to', from 'competition' to 'fun'.

It shows some strong qualities - passion, persistence, a dose of rebelliousness - that still reside within me, but are channeled in very different ways today. "Speak" happened before the medical issues with my family came up. While four members of family had Neurofibromatosis, the consequences of this genetic disorder had not been visible until the Spring of 2009. The potential blindness with Rachel. Later on, Braden's Scoliosis. Bailey's brain tumor. Now Kristi's leg tumor.

In 2008, I 'needed' to win. Today, my needs are quite different, my focus much clearer, and the paths to 'winning' quite different. Not that winning the World Championship wouldn't be fun, of course. The man in "Speak", I hope, has grown up - without losing his Passion and Persistence, but having built and expanded on those qualities with another than only sharpens with age - Perspective.

Braden, Rachel, Bailey, Riley, Brooklyn, & Riker. My perspective builders.
photo by David Hassler.

Hopefully, "Speak" will find its way to a theatre near you soon. Contact Tumbleweed if you want to arrange a screening. Most of you reading will know many of the cast. All of you, I believe, you'll find the movie eye-opening, entertaining, and uplifting. I did, and I didn't even bring home a trophy. But I did Win...Anyway.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Starting Your Speech in the Middle

Jaakko Iisalo - the enemy of your presentation....
You've only got a few seconds. If you don't grab their attention with something that matters, the audience will turn you off before you can say "Angry Birds".

There are several ways to get their attention - from asking an opening question to starting with a startling statistic to saying something controversial or shocking. I covered these in 2010, in "Grabbing the Audience's Attention: Myth or Method"

I still stand by those methods. Today's strategy can work with those, or on it's own: Starting Your Speech in the Middle. The middle of a story, the middle of your speech as previously written, the middle of your climactic point.

Example 1: Speech Topic: Relationships

Normally, you'd open by saying how important relationships are. You might even ask a question: Have you ever had a horrific relationship? Then you set up the rest of your speech and start telling stories.

What if you moved us to the middle, using dialogue? Shout: "Get out of this house this instant, or I'm calling the police!" What is the audience thinking now? Whatever they are thinking, at least they are thinking. They are instantly drawn in, to find out the context of the statement. Now you are free to go backward and forward through time to build context, make a point, and bring your audience to your conclusion.

Example 2: Speech Topic: Taking Risks

A typical start to this speech might be a statistic - "40,000 people a year die in car accidents". Then you bring this into a comparison with your personal story of climbing El Capitan, and continue into your point about the process of taking risks. Not bad, but not terrific.

Instead, consider this: As if talking to yourself, say "What am I doing, volunteering to climb up a 3000 foot rock formation, with only a rock and my idiot brother-in-law between me and certain death?" Pause, look at the audience. "That's what I was thinking. What I said was AAAAUUUUUGGGGGGHHHHHHH!" Then explain the situation - you had a sudden drop, you hurt yourself, you fell to your death, whatever. You get us wondering, then you surprise us. Now you can take us wherever you want to, even up El Capitan!

Starting Your Speech in the Middle provides an added bonus to your speech, as well. It cuts out all temptation to meander around at the beginning with thank you's and stories about the traffic on the way there and how you knew the company president in college. It cuts to the chase, which is what you audience wants, and what will make your speech more memorable, more effective, at its completion.

Is it uncomfortable? Sure. Especially the first few times you do it. But so was speaking, once upon a time. Experiment. Practice. Just don't wimp out. The more powerful your opening, the more power you'll have over your audience.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Toastmasters Friday the 13th: PR Ideas That Never Die

If Jason can survive, so can your club.

Last Saturday morning, from 8 am til 1 pm, District 26 held its "Denver" TLI (Toastmasters Leadership Institute) training for officers and members of the organization. This is my third TLI here in Denver, and I'm always impressed with what they put together - essentially a mini-conference. Over 300 Toastmasters showed up, and they still have training coming up in at least two other population centers in our District.

They brought back local golden boy and 2000 World Champion of Public Speaking Ed Tate to keynote the event, as well as offer a general session workshop. He did his traditional great job, not that I can tell you about any of it because he threatened us that we couldn't share any information or he'd have to kill us. Or something like that...just have him come out to your own TLI if you really want to know.

The morning offered the officer training, including separate training for each position (two for VP of Education, because of space constraints), and even a 'combined training' if you held more than one office in your club. After the workshop, they held another round of educational sessions, on everything from Leadership opportunities with TM to livening up your Competent Communicator manual to connecting with your audience.

I attended the Public Relations training, lead by our District PR Officer Carol Harris and Luc Moens. I should have gone to the combined training, technically, since I'm also VP of Ed, but having done all the trainings over the years, both as a student and a trainer, I thought I'd attend the one that held the potential for the most new information. With the recent rebranding, the PR session was an obvious choice.

Carol and Luc handled the session well, only mentioning the new tagline briefly, acknowledging the controversy (even mentioning that there were some blogs out there that fanned the flames of said controversy - imagine that!), but not opening it up for discussion. It was essentially described as an umbrella idea, with speaking falling under the umbrella of leadership, a concept I'd heard before. Luc explained the branding shift as a way to make TM appear more exclusive and desirable, and essentially upgrade the world's perception of our organization.

Even with this explanation, the rebranding theory was only a small part of the training, and the controversy deftly dismissed with a 'it doesn't matter anyway' attitude, coupled with a tacit, tow the line agreement with the change (my perception), and focus quickly shifted back to how we can use the new colors, logo, fonts, and promo material as PR Officers to create a unified image to potential Toastmasters.

I think they approached it exactly as they should have. They acknowledged the elephant in the room, but didn't dwell on it. The training was how to work with what we have, not whether we should have what we have.

Since it's Friday the 13th, I thought I'd honor the spirit of Jason, the iconic 'can't be killed' anti-hero of the film series of the same name. Below are 13 ideas from this and other PR training I've had throughout the 13 years I've been a TM. Some are old stand-by's others are more up to date. Some are great, some are not so great. Some work better in certain areas than others - you'll have to decide for yourself.

All, at least, have the intent to either keep your club from dying, or, at worst, bring it back from what appears to be a watery grave.

1. Announce your meetings in your local paper, particularly you small, community paper. Most papers offer this service for free, and you often end up in their online edition as well. Try getting into the newsletter of your company and/or professional association, as well.

2. Take your Toastmaster Magazine everywhere. Read it in public and strike up conversations. Put labels with your club info on it and hand it to interested parties or leave it at your doctor's office or on the rack at your hairdresser.

3. Put flyers up at local grocery stores, your work bulletin board, the local Workforce Services - anywhere people gather.

4. Put your ribbons, certificates of achievement, and trophies in your office space. Wear your Toastmasters Pin - if you can find it. I lose mine faster than socks in the dryer... Still, great conversation starters.

5. Get Toastmaster business cards to give to anyone who might be interested. Templates are here:

6. Use/Update FreeToastHost - the official website service of Toastmasters International. I consistently hear that new members come from the web, though my feeling isn't that they come from FreeToastHost as much as the clubfinder tool on the main site. Still, linking your club's updated and well-manicured FTH site to that listing will help as people make decisions as to which club to visit.

7. Create Guest Information Kits, filled with promo material, a TM Magazine, an application, and whatever other material might be helpful to someone looking into the organization and your club. Put something in it, an article, a club history, or even a sample agenda, to help your club stand out.

8. Send handwritten follow-ups to guests, and invitations to those you get into discussions with. In a world of email, a hand-written card stands out. Make sure you have a guest book out, so you can harvest those addresses and make this happen. Phone calls and email follow-ups also help you keep in touch with prospective members.

9. Use to create an online community. There is cost involved, but it offers some great tools and a non-threatening, "I don't have to join TM to join the Meetup", atmosphere. Meetup also cross-markets, so someone in a different meetup will have a chance to see your club without directly looking.

10. Put up your Toastmasters banner outside your meeting space as a sign announcing where the meeting is - simple as it sounds, it's amazing how many clubs just put it in their meeting space instead of the hallways of the building they meet in. You can also purchase plaques that restaurants will often hang in their entryway letting folks know you meet there. TI recommends buying a newly branded edition of your banner, but it's not required.

11. Send out a Mini-Newsletter. It's easy to get bogged down in thinking we must come up with some extensive, graphic-filled newsletter for the club, and if there's someone who wants to do that, more power to them - they have their place. But a mini-newsletter is easy and quick. Just take some notes about your meeting, and send it out to the entire club and anyone on your list of potential members. Tell them how great the meeting was, and invite them to next weeks edition, when so-and-so will be speaking.

12. Send a press release when you have a significant event. What's significant? A guest speaker, a speech-a-thon, a contest, a demo meeting, a New Year's Resolution Meeting - whatever you decide is special. Not sure how to write a good press release? Head here: - it works!

13. Make your club Social Media Savvy. Get that club Facebook Page up. Start a Twitter account. Start a club blog. Get involved in Linked In discussions related to business in your area. Let people know you're going to a meeting, and how much you enjoyed it. Even if you don't direct traffic directly to your club, you'll help TM in general, and other clubs will inevitably be sending folks your way through their efforts.

Speak & Deliver Bonus #14

Many Toastmasters want to speak outside the club, but don't know what to talk about, or haven't developed their message yet. Why not take the Toastmasters message out to the world? Put together a presentation using your own experiences, and head out to your local service club. Offer them some Public Speaking training and then promote TM as the place you learned what you are teaching, and promise them there's more to learn. A win-win for you and your club.

Toastmasters has their own guide to PR available online, as well. Click here for the free downloadable PDF.

There is plenty of opportunity for all the officers, and all members of Toastmasters, to be involved with PR. One person cannot do it all. But if you have a passion for sharing TM with others, you can do something. Because if we all decide it's somebody else's job, our clubs will surely die, with no hope for a Jason-like resurrection.

Enjoy your Friday the 13th!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Are You Creating Followers?

The Original Facebook.
Over the past five years I've watched Facebook, Linked In, and Twitter take over the world with a simple formula: let people talk to each other. This written form of communication offers valuable insight into the speaking world, as well.

Typically, we start out with a small group of people we communicate with - our friends and family. Some never move beyond that point. Others start to expand outside their immediate circle of influence, to people in their industry. Most of my friends on Facebook are fellow speakers I've never met. Beyond that, you can grow your network to thousands of people, many who may care what you say, others who just treat you as a statistic. Without becoming a tutorial on using social media, let me just say this - however you choose to use it, use it in the way it best serves your goals - and get your goals clear before you get to far.

The communication I see on these platforms usually falls into five categories:

1. Open, authentic comments about what we're doing, how we're feeling, and what we plan to do

2. Pithy Quotes, Off-the-Wall Jokes, and lately, images combined with both.

3. Hardcore Marketing filled with links to blogs, sales pages, etc.

4. Links to news stories, blogs, or videos

5. Actual valuable and useful information

All distilled to 140 or so characters apiece, with the percentage of one over the other either serving or betraying the communicator's purposes, just as your content as a speaker will betray or serve your audience.

What type of information are your giving to your audiences when you speak? Does your desire to market overwhelm your audience? Do you focus on sharing others wisdom without being authentic with your own life experiences? How does everything tie together?

Most important, when you finish speaking, have you built new followers, new friends? Have you shared yourself and delivered your message with passion and integrity? Have you communicated with the audience, or just talked at them, throwing out one impersonal statistic, quote and cliche after another?

Successful Social Media users understand it takes a balance of all five types of messages to build friends and following. As speakers, we are given the luxury of more than 30 words or so, but the goal is the same - find the balance of content to build friendships, and trust, from the stage. Whether we're talking to friends and family, your circle of influence, or your entire industry, remember to talk to and with them, vs. at or for them.

Once your balance is achieved, you'll know you're able to Speak...and Deliver.

*editor's note: This post originally appeared in 2009. It has been edited for content and modified to fit your screen.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

200 Bricks.

Will Smith tells a story about his father tearing down a wall in front of his business, and telling his two young boys they had to rebuild it. The young kids thought it was an impossible task, but in about a year and a half, they succeeded. The former Fresh Prince said the key was focusing not on the wall they had to build, but laying the perfect brick, one brick at a time.

When I set out to start Speak & Deliver, I had this simple goal in mind, as seen in my first post, Sept. 15, 2009:

"Speak & Deliver will cover both sides of the issue, as we strive to marry the best of Method and Message in order to create the best possible speakers for today's audiences."

Have I succeeded?

Speak & Deliver has certainly been built slowly over the last 28 months, though 2011 was a bit of a breakout year as I dedicated more and more time to posting. I'm honored by the many follows I can see on the right side of this blog, the RSS followers, and those that help me average 300 or so views a day. It either means I'm writing what you want to read, or I'm using enough Glee images that people are hitting my blog just to grab the graphics. Probably some combination of both!

What can I do to make the next 200 posts useful to you? To push you along your speaking journey, one post at a time? Tell me in the comments below, facebook me, or email me with your thoughts. This blog, after all, is for the "Speaking Public", not me.

Thank you for reading Speak & Deliver. Now go out and give a speech. Every speech is a brick. Your wall of success is waiting to be built!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Speaking of Testimonials

It's one thing when you spend your life writing marketing copy designed to tell people how brilliant you are as a speaker. It's another when you can get someone else to say it, too!

Testimonials rank high when it comes to credibility for a buyer, whether you're selling dishwashers, toothpaste, or keynote speeches. They come in many shapes, sizes, and levels of effectiveness, but most testimonials will still outweigh anything we write about ourselves.

Testimonial Types:

A. First Name Only. These are the lowest form of testimonial. A written sentence or two, no matter how glowing, loses steam when followed by "- Anthony H." No accountability there, for the recommender or the speaker. Whose to say it isn't all made up?

B. First & Last. Finding out Anthony H. is really Anthony Hopkins can be priceless!

C. First, Last, & Position. Finding out it's the Anthony Hopkins that is the CEO of SomeBigComputer Company who hired you? Even better.

[Rich is] "a speaker with strong themes and an entertaining style... Any audience could benefit from his experiences, ideas and enthusiasm."
                                                                                    Barb Bunkers 
                                                                                    Human Resources
                                                                                    Principal Financial Group

D. Add a photo. Seeing it's a real person adds weight and added verifiability to the quote.

E. Audio. These were more popular 10 years ago, when digital recorders first hit the scene. A voice is more convincing than disembodied words on a page. But, if you can do Audio, you can just as easily do...

F. Video. These are today's gold standard, especially if you are able to get them at the event itself. The enthusiasm is high, the atmosphere of the convention center floor adds impact, even the crowd noise screams legitimacy. With today's digital HD cameras at an all time low, and software free or virtually free (I used a $50 copy of Corel VideoPro), it's easier than ever.

The best testimonials don't just talk about how well you did, they talk about what the person got out of what you said, or what the company took home from the event. Ask people to speak about something specific in your presentation, and they'll usually be able to write or say something more specific than "I really enjoyed hearing you speak."

Written testimonials are still a tough animal to corral. People say they'll do them, and forget, or just get too busy. It's not unusual for speakers to write their own testimonials for a meeting planner or company big-wig, and ask that person to sign-off on it, pending their own corrections and additions. Believe it or not, book recommendations are often done in the same way. How else would Jack Canfield have time to endorse every book in the Self-Help section?

Getting those written testimonials on company letterhead is nice, but not as necessary in today's digital world. When you do get them, scan them for posterity, and send them if a meeting planner actually asks. Otherwise, just add them to your website in a short soundbyte. Get permission to use people's company logos, and add it along with a picture of the individual. This can build a nice visual resume of corporate clients, once you begin to pile them up.

Video testimonials are interesting as well, from beginning to end. I knew I wanted to get some at my last big event, but I admit, I was hesitant to ask people. My friend Theresa Frasch had no such hesitation, took my FlipCam and started going around the conference, getting me every testimonial. She definitely saved the day! Getting a third party involved can be very helpful, and you'll know the testimonials are authentic (for your own peace of mind) when you aren't right there pressuring them to be nice.

Finding the time to actually put them together and post 'em on YouTube was another challenge, but it was easier than I expected. Once I had my template together, each one took about 10 minutes, not counting compile and upload time. One's uploading as I type, so multi-tasking is always an option! A quick shout out to Darren LaCroix and his CD program "YouTube It" for being an encouraging and educational nagging voice on my computer.

However you get them, testimonials are a crucial piece of your marketing puzzle. No one else can give your speech, but most everyone who hears it can give a 20-30 second speech about how you've enlightened, educated, and inspired them. Go out today and Speak...and Deliver. Then get someone to tell the world how you did!

Just for Toastmasters: Many clubs record speeches, but how many record testimonials for the speakers after the meeting? This can be good practice for the speakers, and provide some great promo material for members of the club, and even the club itself! Don't force anyone to do it of course, but once they see how much fun it is to get a testimonial from others, they'll be lining up to get on camera.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Speaking Perfection is a Myth

It may be an odd thing to hear coming from a coach dedicated to improving his clients content and delivery, but it is true, nonetheless. Speaking Perfection is overrated. In fact, Speaking Perfection may be the biggest enemy for speakers wanting to get out into the 'real world'.

So many beginning speakers worry that they just aren't good enough yet, even after going to Toastmasters, even after hiring a coach. They won't schedule themselves for even the smallest Rotary group, even if their coach tells them it's time to jump into the deep end.

They want to reach Speaking Perfection before ever going out to speak. Unfortunately, Speaking Perfection is a Myth. An unreachable mountaintop. Even Jesus didn't convert everyone who ever heard his words. Zig Ziglar doesn't convince every audience member to 'Stop their Stinkin' Thinkin''. There's always someone who thinks the Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking should have been someone other than who it was in any given year.

Beyond influence, technical perfection isn't even necessary. We're not doing ballet on stage, folks. In some cases, technically proficient speakers are further away from perfection than those that stutter every now and again, because they are too slick!

Don't fall victim to the Speaking Perfection Myth. You are ready to speak to a live audience if:

A. You have a message they want/need to hear - a message based on your experience and expertise.

B. You have an outline - a real beginning, middle, and end, just like that paper in high school.

C. You have practiced more than once - at minimum in front of your dog.

D. You have spoken previously - in front of live people without fainting, freezing or vomiting. This is a big reason I recommend Toastmasters. Doesn't have to be this speech, though that would certainly be beneficial. Just know you can do it.

E. You have a point - an actionable point to leave your audience with at the close of your presentation. We don't care about your life, about twitter, about global warming, unless we can learn something and do something after hearing about it.

The setting is important, of course. An individual watching you at a breakfast networking group will be far more understanding and open to your imperfect message than the same individual who has paid a ton of money for a conference. That's why most coaches encourage their charges to start with 'free speaking' at service clubs. It gets your feet wet without putting you in front of an audience with incredibly high expectations. If the last person they heard was the average town councilman, or the Rotary President's sister who loves talking about quilting, you're most likely already ahead of the game.

"You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great." - Zig Ziglar

What's important is not how Perfect you are, but that you are able to get through the speech and make an impact. Audiences appreciate authenticity. They'll look past a stutter or stop to look at notes. Real life audience are more forgiving than you might think, as long as you give them something that impacts their heart, mind, or pocketbook.

Don't get me wrong, I don't believe any speaker should stop there. There's plenty more to learn, more ways to improve your level of connection, communication of ideas, and ultimate impact. It is a lifelong process, even for the best of the best. It's always preferable to reach 7 people out of 10 than 3. But 3 is a good start.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to get better, unless getting better gets in the way of getting started.

Don't wait for perfection. Don't wait til you've won enough contests. Don't wait until you're totally sure you're ready. If you haven't started yet, find a Toastmasters club, find a coach, or, at the very least, find your dog, and SPEAK.

Someone out there needs to hear what you have to say.

*after writing this, I realized I'd written something similar last September. I considered not posting this one, or delaying it, but then I thought again. If it's on my mind it may be on some of yours, especially as you look toward Speaking and Delivering in the New Year.


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