San Francisco Writers Conference–Feb 14 & 15

 

Register for SFWC

 
I’m taking my heart and the rest of me to speak at the Writers Conference. Here’s my schedule…

 

Friday, February 14th: The Craft of Writing Non-Fiction Books

Saturday, February 15th:  The Profitable Author and Harnessing the Power of Writing for Public Speaking Success

Register for the conference here.

Drop me a note if you’re planning to be there!

Toastmasters Leadership Summit–Feb 1st, NYC

Harnessing the Power of Preparation for Public Speaking Excellence

Which do you enjoy more:

A) presenting a polished prepared speech 

B) winging it at an impromptu table topics session

C) do I have to decide between the two?

If your answer is ‘C’, then you’re in luck. I’ll show you how to be well-prepared for any impromptu speaking opportunity that may materialize at a moment’s notice, especially the dreaded ‘pop-in boss’ scenario.

Join Me for my Interview with NFAA


Public Speaking Strategies for Introverted Writers

I’m a transparent type of guy so here’s a little secret for you: I’m an introverted writer. And, as an introverted writer, I greatly enjoy capturing my thoughts on paper. One activity I savor even more is…wait for it…sharing my ideas with a live audience.
 
Click below to discover how to enjoy speaking on stage…

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No Time To Prepare Your Next Presentation? No Problem!

Imagine this scenario: your boss calls you into his office and explains that you’ll be giving an important presentation tomorrow morning to a group of senior managers within your organization. Reality check time: Do you feel the same way as when…

A) Your warm shower suddenly turns icy cold
B) Your small plane enters a disturbingly dark thunder cloud
C) Your rickety old elevator abruptly stops between floors

Click below to discover how to design a presentation when you’re pinched for time…

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How Toastmasters Helped Me To Go Out of My Mind

A picture is worth a thousand words, but a few misplaced words can derail your entire presentation

Early in my design career, I’d think a lot about designing consumer products. That was normal since I had recently graduated from Industrial Design school. I’d think about the look and feel of the product. I’d imagine my target consumer using it. I’d mull over how much the product would sell in a retail setting.

Click below to discover how to take your ideas from head to stage…

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Does a Magic Pill Exist for Better Public Speaking?

Popeye has his spinach. Superman his phone booth. What do you have to become a better public speaker? You may be surprised to learn that there are various simple yet powerful techniques to give you a quick boost before getting up on stage.

Click below to discover the secret to powerful public speaking…

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On Caring For Your Audience

“My audience was my life. What I did and how I did it was all for my audience.” –Cab Calloway

Click below to discover how to give your audience what they came for…

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Impromptu Dialoguing

The incredible world of social media has multiplied the channels available to communicate with each other. Now with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter we can keep in touch with everyone we know with a click of a button. We can craft the perfect comment to a friend’s message because there’s no rush to respond. It’s all good.

 

Or is it? We are citizens of a dual universe. We live simultaneously in a cyber world as well as the “old-fashioned” bricks and mortar world. Live face-to-face communication is where relationships are formed and solidified. We are continuously bombarded with our colleagues showing up at our desks at work expecting immediate responses to their concerns. Your boss will not likely be sending you a text message anytime soon. And even if he does, you can be sure he’ll be arriving at your cubicle a few moments later.

 

We live in a world of immediacy. The better you are at dealing with urgency, the more valuable you’ll be to your company. I call this type of transaction “impromptu dialogue.” And there are specific skills you’ll need to excel in this arena.

 

Come to my talk on August 12th in NYC and learn about five simple techniques you can use to bring about better personal and professional relationships, immediately.

 

Life is a Series of Improvisational Opportunities

Note: The following is an excerpt from my untitled book on fearless public speaking, targeted for publication later this year.

  

Are you comfortable with uncertainty?

Are you known as a person who’s good at ‘thinking on their feet’?

Do you look forward to finding yourself in the middle of an unfamiliar situation in order to feel a rush of adrenaline?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, then I have just the thing for you…improvisational speaking. 

For a typical presentation you’ll be given plenty of advance notice to prepare. You’ll have full knowledge of the topic, format, venue, and audience. As long as you give yourself ample time to prepare, you’ll be ready when the big day comes.

Now it’s a different story when it comes to improv. You won’t have advance knowledge of the topic. And there’ll be no time to prepare. A split second is all you’ll be given before your speaking window closes. If you’re the type of person who prefers to choose your words wisely, then read on.

The key to improv is to focus your awareness on the edge of time we call ‘now’. Analysis is out. You’ll need to allow all stimuli to enter your consciousness without selective filtering. To be successful at improvisational speaking, you’ll need to trust yourself to make decisions in real time.

The archetypical extrovert is the ideal improvisational speaker. You’ll recognize people in this category by their proclivity to speak before they think. They don’t mind if the ideas that flow from their mouths aren’t fully formed. They see a conversation as an ongoing exchange of ideas. They respond creatively and don’t see the need to defend their ideas as absolutes.

Extroverts welcomes change. In fact, they revel in it. You’ve heard the expressions, “go with the flow” and “live in the moment”. Extroverts take those ideas to heart. 

Improvisational speaking is at the center of our daily business life. Most managers proclaim to practice an open door policy. The manager promises to drop whatever he or she is doing to take up the employee’s concern. These situations are where the manager’s improvisational skills are tested.

An adroit manager will have the presence of mind to switch into improvisational mode as soon as an employee shows up at his door. There is no time to prepare as there is no read-ahead providing the topic of conversation. He’ll need to wing it. The more skilled he is at clearing his head of the residue of thought, the more effectively he can focus on his employee.

We improve our skills by observing experts in the field. When it comes to improv our search ends quickly as we only need to watch our kids. Children have natural improv skills. They are adept at living in the moment because their abstract and critical thinking skills have not developed yet.

Listen to children speak and you’ll be reminded of a bee around flowers. The conversation weaves in and out. Logic is nowhere to be found. Imagination is key. Adults looking for a structured discussion will quickly become dizzy trying to keep up with children’s frenzied playfulness.

Where have our natural improvisational skills gone? The good news is that they haven’t disappeared. We still have them. It’s the same situation for any skill we have mastered but haven’t used in awhile. 

For example, most people were excellent bike riders as children. But the two-wheeled apparatus lies unused as we learn to drive a vehicle with four wheels. However, even after many years away from bike riding it takes us only a few hours to get back to the skill level we enjoyed as kids.

It’s the same with improvisational speaking. We mastered the skill as children without even knowing it. Now, as adults, it lies dormant within us. So then why does it seem so difficult to bring ourselves back to our former level of expertise?

The answer lies with our big brains. Basically we think too much to allow ourselves to flow with the speed of our own thoughts. We get in the way of our very fast stream of consciousness. Our thinking process is approximately 800 words per minute (wpm). Yet our speaking rate is only 150 wpm. What do we do with the 650 words left unspoken? Or more to the point of this article, how do we choose which 100 words to let loose?

To be an effective improvisational speaker, we must find ways to clear away the blockages that slow down our flow of words. The world’s fastest speaker lets out an incredible 655 wpm. A top auctioneer will bid-call at 400 wpm. Should we attempt to speak at that rate? We could, but our audience would be laughing so loudly we wouldn’t be able to hear ourselves think. 

We need to increase our rate of speaking by only 25 wpm to notice a significant increase in our improv skills. Why? When we speak faster than our typical comfortable rate, we force ourselves to let ideas out that aren’t fully formed. We think less about saying the right things. We don’t have as much time to filter our thoughts as we are used to.

If you enjoyed reading this abridged article, stay tuned as I’ll post more soon. To be notified via email, sign up in the ‘leave a comment’ section below.

Four Gutsy Steps to Develop a Zest for PublicSpeaking

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Why do many experienced public speakers appear to be enjoying themselves while performing on stage? Would it surprise you to know that they actually are having fun while speaking in front of an audience? Well it’s not as hard as you think for you to look forward with anticipation to what many people see as their top fear in life: public speaking. Your path to success will be accelerated if you apply these four basic principles.

1. Before performing, remind yourself that you will do the best you possibly can. There’s no need to try to be perfect. That’ll just get in the way of your performance.

The notion that we will always do the right thing is far-fetched at best. We need to relieve the pressure we put on ourselves. Is it realistic to think that we should always get a perfect score on our exams? Of course not. Similarly there will be times in life when we fall flat on our faces.

For example, the first time I spoke in front of an audience I was so scared I couldn’t speak. In fact before getting on stage I had a persistent nervous cough that continued for almost 20 minutes. I drank a lot of water. I sat down and meditated. I even took a sedative. No matter what I tried, I could not stop myself from coughing.

What finally worked is when I succeeded in convincing myself to ignore that little voice in my head that was saying “you’ve got to be perfect up there. Don’t blow it.” Well guess what…that voice in our heads is wrong. It’s not about being perfect. Perfection is not the right goal for you because you can always improve your performance. Even world champion speakers will readily admit that they still have room to get better.

Will you have the best performance the world has ever seen? Of course not. That’s unrealistic. Will you have your best performance ever? No. This is just a step on your path to improvement. What your performance will be is the best it can be for this moment in time. Even if you mess up a couple times during your performance.

The key to success in public speaking or any endevour in life is to learn from your mistakes and persevere. As the famous orator Winston Churchill once said, “never, never, ever quit”. As long are you’re practicing your craft, you will be improving.

2. When on stage in midst of performing, don’t worry about where your story is headed.

Public speaking is similar to any other activity in real time, you’ve got to connect with the moment. Thinking ahead while you’re speaking, even for a nanosecond, is distracting and is a sure way to make you lose your train of thought. Focus on the flow of your words and the tonality of your voice. The secret to an effective speech is keeping up with yourself. Your brain must be in synch with your mouth.

If you asked 100 newbie speakers if they thought public speaking could be enjoyable, I’m sure 99 of them would give you an emphatic ‘no’. The one outlier would tell you that if you know your material cold and if you can connect deeply with your audience then the experience can be a rewarding one.

It’s more about enjoying the ride than arriving at your destination. This state of mind is called flow. You can drop into it only by keeping your mind laser focused on what you’re doing. Let the thoughts flow naturally. There’s no right or wrong when you’re in the zone. They’ll be plenty of time to dissect your performance after you’ve finished speaking.

3. After coming off the stage, congratulate yourself for your performance, even if you think you’ve bombed.

There are two ways to look at everything you do: non-judgementally or critically. And there’s a right time to do each. When you step off the stage, remember to give yourself a pat on the back. Public speaking is not easy. Give yourself credit for doing what you set out to do. Beating yourself up is not conducive to your self-confidence. And it certainly won’t help you to get back on stage.

Instead try thinking about the things you did well. Build yourself up. Remind yourself how it felt when the audience responded to your story or laughed at your humor or applauded when you were done. It felt good, didn’t it? It could be 100 people that you made a connection with, or 10 or even one. The quantity doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that you communicated your thoughts.

You may never hear directly from anyone in your audience but know that you have impacted their lives simply because you had the courage to speak out and share your ideas. There will be be plenty of time to think about how you could improve your presentation after you are off the stage. However don’t confuse the way you present yourself with the content you share with your audience. Without good ideas form is superfluous. With good form your ideas are elevated.

4. Every individual has a unique personality. There may other people that are similar in certain aspects, but there will never be another person that matches you in your totality.

There is no other person in this world who is exactly like you. You have a unique way in which you express yourself. So why would you want to copy someone else’s style when on stage? You need to speak from your heart to connect with your audience. That’s where your true power comes from. Taking on someone’s style makes your performance appear hollow. The audience can see the difference between authenticity and veneer. Be you on stage.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch and learn from other speakers. I’m saying that the external things you incorporate into your performance must feel natural to you. You need to make it part of you. A good speech will appear spontaneous and unrehearsed. The words will flow naturally from your heart with emotion. Speakers who do not connect with their self will surely not connect with their audience. Don’t speak from the neck up.

Public speaking can be a rewarding experience. Overcoming fear of speaking in front of a large audience is rewarding in itself. In business and in life you’ll be asked to present your ideas in a group setting. Do you want to be the person who’s voice is quivering with sweat pouring down their face? Or would you like to appear poised, powerful and dynamic while clearly expressing your message? With practice you will improve your public speaking skills and even enjoy sharing your ideas on the big stage.

Get your ham on!