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Things happen, pay attention! June 7, 2006

Posted by Eric in Speaking Tips.
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Things happen, pay attention! June 5, 2006

Posted by Eric in Speaking Tips.
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Telling personal stories or anecdotes is one of the easiest and most effective way of connecting with your audience. It is fool-proof. You can be the most boring speaker in the entire universe but when you tell a personal story, you will automatically be forgiven. Not only do your stories build rapport with your audience, they differentiate you from the rest of the speakers. In the eyes of your audience, you are unique!

However many speakers fail to take advantage of their wealth of stories that they have accumulated over the years. It is like a gold mine waiting to be tapped! And I urge you to START MINING FOR STORIES!!!

“But I don’t have great stories to tell!”

Not true. If you open your eyes and pay attention, you will find tons of stories to tell. As Jim Key, 2003 World Champion Speaker emphasized – “Things happen, pay attention!” They may not necessarily be of Hollywood quality but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good enough. In fact with all the hype over Hollywood flicks, we are dying to hear some everyday stories that can happen to any one of us. Think back to your last dinner with your friends. Didn’t everyone has some stories to bring to the table?

Just this morning, something funny happened at my house. And I paid attention!

Room-mate 1: (complaining) My life sucks!
Room-mate 2: (earnestly) Don’t worry. It would be over soon.
Room-mate 1: My life??!!

There you go. A piping hot story that I can share with my friends and audience. And I can use it to prove a point. Instead of telling the “Is the cup half full or half empty” story (which is extremely cliche!), I could replace it with the above anecdote. 100% original. Who would have thought of it? Things happen, pay attention!

So here’s what I would encourage all of you to do. Things happen all the time. If you open your eyes and pay attention, you will be overwhelmed with stories to tell. Always keep a pencil and paper in your pocket. Every time something interesting happens, write it down. It could be a conversation with your mum. It could be an incident that happened at a restaurant. If you find it interesting or funny, write it down. Transfer it to your computer and save all these stories into one folder. You may even want to categorize your stories in whichever way you want. This folder is going to be your treasure chest. The next time you speak, open up your treasure chest and pick a couple of stories that you think would relate to your message. Incoporate them into your speeches and see how you effortlessly wow your audience away! Trust me, it works ALL the time!

p.s: Interested to win a free ebook that teaches you to become an effective and charismatic speaker? All you got to do is share with us something interesting that happened to you this week. This would be an opportunity for you to apply what I have just shared with you – things happen, pay attention! You can post it via comments and remember to leave me your email address too. I look forward to reading your stories!

The Mechanics of Humor June 3, 2006

Posted by Eric in Humor, Videos.
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Humor is all about creating surprises! The bigger the surprise, the more laughter you create. This video is an excellent example. 🙂

Get in the Game, but Not Without a Coach! June 2, 2006

Posted by Eric in Articles.
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Came across this article written by a 1999 World Champion speaker, Craig Valentine. Remember the third speaking secret I shared with you on the importance of being coachable? This article offers deeper insights into how you can find the right coach and maxmize your coaching experience with him or her.

Get a what?

Champions get coached. In 1999 I won the World Championship of Public Speaking for Toastmasters International and have been speaking regularly ever since. Several years later, after a disastrous speech in Montreal, I went back to my hotel room, threw my head on my pillow, and faced the following reality: I need a coach badly!

Although I had never had a public speaking coach to aid in my considerable success to that point, I knew I needed one to take my speaking to the next level. Therefore, I decided to call a person who is supposed to be one of the best public speaking coaches in the country. I said, “I would like to be coached by you.” She asked, “Are you sure?” I said, “Yes. I did my research and I know you are the one I want to coach me?” She said, “Do you know how much I charge?” I said, “At this point, it would cost me more not to get coached.” She said, “Great!” Then she quoted her daily fee and I thought to myself, “Well, I am pretty happy with the skills that I have.”

Then I thought, “Wait a minute. Tiger Woods is the best golfer in the world and he has a coach. All sports teams have coaches, and every extremely successful speaker I have ever heard of has had a coach. Wake up Craig. You need a coach!” Despite my reluctance, I decided to go for it and it was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. In fact, I signed up for two days! When you decide to get coached, you will find it to be one of your greatest decisions too as long as you follow these critical pieces of advice:

Seek Education not Validation

When I flew across country to work with my speech coach, she immediately questioned some of my longstanding strategies and practices I used as a speaker. She even physically slapped me on the hand at times to correct me on certain habits. While completely in shock, I remember looking at my ego and saying, “You might want to leave the room for the next two days, because I will not need you.” Fortunately I was able to remove my ego in time for this valuable education.

It always amazes me how every now and then an up-and-coming speaker contacts me for coaching and then, when his session begins, he does all of the talking. Somewhere I heard that learning is done with the mouth closed. Eventually I began to understand that these particular students do not want education, instead they want to validate that everything they are already doing is right. They come into coaching with their cups full with no room for additional information. That is the wrong reason to seek coaching. As a result, the first thing I ask each of my new students is, “Do you want education or validation?” Although it is not easy to face the reality of your current condition, it is absolutely necessary if you want to get to another place. Your coach will help you do that.

A legendary comedy writer once told me that he had an up-and-coming comedy writer call him and beg him to be his coach. Over time the legendary writer gave in and decided to coach the student. In their very first session, after the legend gave some advice, the student said, “You don’t know what’s funny. That will never work. That’s not good advice for me.” Needless to say that was their first and last coaching session together. Don’t get me wrong, you do not need to take everything a coach says and use it, but you do need to enter the sessions with an open mind looking through the lens of education not validation.

Hire the Right Coach

Before hiring my coach, I researched to find the person that would benefit me the most. How? I asked my friends in the speaking industry to provide names of the top coaches. I then purchased materials from several of them to get an understanding of what each one brings to the table. Then and only then did I call my prospective coach.

There are many views on this topic but I suggest finding a coach who is strong where you are weak. Some people believe in finding a coach that reflects their style, but I firmly believe in finding a coach whose style is different. If you get a mirror image of yourself, you will not learn much. Since my storytelling was strong, I did not seek a coach who only dealt with storytelling. However, since I needed work with my structure, I sought out a coach who was strong in that area and she has since given me a very strong structural foundation.

I suggest that you videotape your presentations, ask others for ways you can improve, and review your speeches objectively so that you can figure out where you may need a stronger foundation whether it is structure, content, delivery, etc. Next identify a pool of potential coaches and purchase some of their materials for review purposes. Finally, decide which one can most likely help you fill your needs. One last thought… it helps to hire a coach who has been where you are hoping to go.

Capture their Genius (and Yours)!

There is absolutely no way you will remember all of the valuable information you receive when being coached unless you record your sessions. If you find a coach that will not let you record your sessions, find another coach. It is that critical. After my two days with my coach, I had over 12 hours of audio. In fact, I still have it today. I even kept my mini-disc recorder turned on when we went to lunch and to dinner, because valuable information comes in all settings. The only time I turned it off was when we went to the Rich Little show because those were the rules and I did not want to get arrested. You want to squeeze every bit of value from your sessions. From these recordings I was able to return to my office and translate the most important points into 37 pages of notes that I carry around like a living breathing textbook.

In your sessions, your coach will have brilliant ideas and strategies for you, but guess what? So will you! Your inner genius will speak louder and louder as your session goes on and you need to capture it. Capture it now and replay it later. Soon, after consistent review of your audio recordings and your written notes, you will start incorporating these new ideas because they will become a part of you. Failure to record it is like purchasing a huge house and living in only one room. You will not get your value’s worth.

Go Back for Seconds

The same way a good meal inspires you to go back for seconds, so does a good training session. I was so impressed with my speech coach, I ended up going back across country one month later to do a group training session with her and about 50 people. When I entered the room I was not surprised to see some of the most accomplished speakers in our industry sitting in the chairs as students taking notes expectantly and feverishly. That’s what champions do. They get coached constantly and get swept away in an upward spiral of success and improvement. Any one who wants to propel his or her performance in any area needs a coach.

Sometimes when you go for seconds it will be with another coach. No problem. That is a great idea. You can get structure from one coach and then go to another for storytelling. You may seek advice on delivery from another, but it is critical to continue your education through coaching. It is simply the best form of tailored feedback you will ever receive. A good coach will bring out the best in you.

What is The Most Important Ingredient for Coaching?

Courage. Let’s face it, nobody loves to be slapped on the hand or told that the way they do things does not make sense. This fear, not the financial piece, is the number one reason many individuals do not get coached. It takes great courage.

I can remember my good friend and the 2001 Toastmasters International World Champion of Public Speaking Darren LaCroix telling me about a marketing boot camp he attended. Many of the attendees were reluctant to share their current marketing materials because of the feedback they might receive. On the other hand, Darren said, “Hurt me. That’s why I’m here.” As a result, he has made great strides in his business using his very effective marketing tools. It is no surprise he is a champion. That’s what champions do.

You may be wondering, “So Craig, how has being coached paid off for you?” More than the increased business and the drastically enhanced impact I am having on my audiences, I am filled with the excitement of knowing that I am squeezing every ounce of ability out of my potential. Why? That’s what champions do. Champions get coached. Are you a champion?

About the Author
Craig Valentine is a professional speaker who provides organizations with the proven processes for peak performance in the areas of change, customer satisfaction, communications, and leadership. He is the author of the book The Nuts and Bolts of Public Speaking and he coaches executives on enhancing their presentation skills. He is the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking for Toastmasters International.

8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Part 8 June 1, 2006

Posted by Eric in Speaking Tips.
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Have you ever consider public speaking to be fun? An activity to indulge in for destressing purposes? Something that you can play around with and reap boundless of joy and happiness?

For most people… hardly! If you recall, public speaking has been ranked as the number one fear, surpassing the fear of death! Who would even associate public speaking with fun??!! However for those who do, they cannot help but be a master at their craft, all thanks to their “play” attitude.

Think about it. If you like a particular activity so much, doing it excessively will not be considered hard work at all right? In fact, you will find every single opportunity to get back to the activity; without any coercion, persuasion or effort! You will be so involved in what you are doing that nothing else around you matters at all. It is as if time went on a standstill…

Unless you enjoy what you are doing, you will never be able to fully maximize your potential. At best, you will just be a good speaker because of all the hard work that you have put in. Imagine if you add the element of fun in it, there is no limit to how good you can be!

So what has fun got to do with being successful in public speaking (or in anything for that matter)?

1. Fun is the best cure against your arch nemesis: Fear

It is like a shiny armour that deflects any worries, doubts and apprehension that you may have. It blesses you with courage to step out of your comfort zone and try new things. It grants you freedom to be creative. It bestows you with immunity against failure. It gives you permission to laugh at yourself. When fun is in the picture, nothing will be too daunting for you.

2. Fun sustains you

When you are having fun, you have essentially open up boundless of pure energy that pushes you towards success. There is no work involved when it comes to honing your public speaking skills. It is part of the fun! Any challenges you faced become part of the game. Instead of mulling over how tough it is, you find yourself inventing new ways to defeat these challenges. In fact the harder the better. Some people call that optimism. To you, it is all part of the game!

3. Fun brings out the best in you

Having fun also allows you to walk the path of least resistance. As such your energies are spent exploring new ground and discovering new things about yourself. You do not care if you succeed or fail. It releases you from the pressure of having to win. What you are more concerned about is that you are enjoying every part of it. As long as you are moving forward with each step that you take, nothing else matters.

Ironically, such attitude creates the most results. Take a look at Dr Richard Feynman. He won a nobel prize out of calculating the relationship between the wobble and the rotation of the plate for fun. His “play” attitude led him to stumble onto quantum electrodynamics! And then there was Einstein, Newton and all other famous scientists.

The same happens when you are on stage too! When you are having fun on stage, it creates instant connection with your audience. Fun is infectious and your audience cannot help but have fun too.

Here’s one way you can start having fun with public speaking – Treat it like a game!

Here’s what I want you to do for your next speech. Set up some winning criteria i.e. what do you need to do to “win the game”. It could come in the form of “My audience will give me a smiley face sticker at the end of my speech” or “I will try something new each time I speak”. Pull in a few friends to play the game with you. They could either compete with you or even play judges. And what’s a game without rewards? Make sure you plan some enticing rewards for yourself. Invite your friends to pool in some of the prizes too! Increase the stake. And then focus on winning the game! What’s there to lose?

Notice the adrenalin rush?
Notice the excitment building up?
Notice that you aren’t even concerned about youe fears?

That’s what I am talking about. Treat public speaking as a game. Be spontaneous. Be adventurous. Most importantly, have fun with it!

I would recommend that you read Scott’s entry on The Secret to Productivity where he shares with you even more practical tips to have fun with what you do!

So the next time you have to give a speech, let your hair out and have fun! Be wild and experiment new things. Even if it flops, you had fun trying it! I shall go against the usual advices that you hear from speech experts. Do NOT take your speech (or yourself) too seriously. Treat it as a game and play your heart out!

“Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.”
Heraclitus, Greek Philosopher (535 – 475 BCE)

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8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Be Coachable
8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Attract Mentors to Assist You
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8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Part 7 May 30, 2006

Posted by Eric in Speaking Secrets.


I have written an entry on this a couple of weeks ago. You can read the full version here: The Lazy Way to Become a Successful Speaker

Allow me to do a quick summary.

Fearing public speaking is normal. Most people do. And there is absolutely no doubt that this fear of ours is huuuuggggggeeeee, even astronomical and VERY real. But how do we handle it? We work really hard to fight it. We read tons of books, e-books and blogs on how to FIGHT our fear. We pay eye-popping, jaw-dropping and gut-wrenching sum of hard-earned money (pun intended!), attempting to ELIMINATE our fear. And sadly for most of us, it all amounts to nothing in the end.

Today I will like to propose that you take The Alternate Path. This path doesn’t even require you to fight the fear because it is too much of a hassle and hard work. Instead, take time to find the right angle to tackle the problem. With regards to public speaking, the right angle in my opinion, refers to ways you can be successful right from the beginning. Here are some ways that worked extremely well for me.

1. Find a group of audience that loves you from the start.

You can never go wrong by starting to speak in front of a group that wants you to succeed. And this group could be as small as just your little puppy or your beloved wife or even your buddies from the army! I would also strongly recommend you to join the Toastmasters! It is an organization that was set up with the sole goal of making you and me successful in public speaking. And from my experience, they have one of the best community of people you can ever be with.

2. Start by taking small steps

Yes. Stop trying to speak like Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill. You will never be as good as them. There is a reason why they are legendary. Instead pick someone your own caliber. Say your school lecturer or your CEO! If you can be half as boring as him or her at your first speech, consider that a big success. Go out and celebrate! Always give yourself a chance to win, no matter how small the win is. It is much easier to move forward that way. And in no time, you will find yourself joining the ranks of highly competent speakers!

3. Start by focusing on your strengths.

I have mentioned this one before in my earlier post. Every speaker is unique. Take time to discover your strengths. Focus on them. Say you are extremely energetic on stage. Explore how you can leverage that energy on stage. If your friends think you are funny and not lame (that’s a world of difference!), start studying how you can be funnier. It is painless if you focus on your strengths. You will also start noticing yourself improve much faster. And the praises you received from your friends will only accelerate your growth as a speaker.

As Fred Gratzon indicated in this book:

“The right angle … is always in the direction of greater ease and effortlessness.” Note: you are NOT avoiding the job of becoming a successful speaker. You are merely avoiding the hard work of becoming one. So if you are sick and tired of working so hard with little results, take on The Alternate Path. Set yourself up for success!!!

Related Posts
8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Inside-Out
8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Lots and Lots of Stage Time
8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Speak from the Heart
8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Be Coachable
8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Attract Mentors to Assist You
8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Evaluate All Speakers, Simon Cowell’s style!

8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Part 6 May 29, 2006

Posted by Eric in Speaking Secrets.
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The sixth secret I want to share with you is both the easiest and hardest to implement. Easiest because you do not have to do any work. Hardest because it works in the subtle. In Fred Gratzon’ book The Lazy Way to Success, he describes human’s subtlest layer as consciousness, the basis of all human experience and expression. It is also at this level, where we can harness great power. Without going into the abstract, I shall explain how you can harness such power to become a phenomenal speaker!

The premise of this entry lies here – “Who You Are Speaks Louder than What You Can Say”

To get started, I want you to ask yourself this question: When you get up to speak, who are you being?

A rockstar that everyone is dying to listen to or a screw-up that everyone jeers at? A charismatic leader with an important message or a nobody trying to be a charismatic leader with an important message? A passionate speaker with something valuable to share or an apprehensive speaker who can’t wait to get off the stage?

When you are up on stage, are you speaking in the position of clarity and power or in fear and trepidation? What’s your background conversation? If it is “Shit, I am going to screw up…” then yes, you WILL screw up. However, if it is “I’ve got something important to say so listen carefully”, then every part of you will command the listening of your audience.

Whether you like it or not, your thoughts manifest your actions. It works inside-out. If you get the beingness (or essence) right, the doing (what you actually have to do to achieve the desired outcome) will follow. Otherwise, no amount of doing will make a difference. Let me share with you a personal experience.

My first experience of pubic speaking started when I was in high school. I took part in a Science Speech Contest and won First Place. Ironically, it was my quick success that led me to avoid public speaking for a good five years. As the champion speaker, I was invited to speak in front of the entire school, which was approximately 1600 students!!! That was a HUUUUUGGGGEEEEEE crowd compared to 40 people – who happened to my friends too – during the contest itself. As you have guessed it, I flopped big time. I forgot almost my entire speech, together with my name. I stuttered through whatever lines that I could remember, which ended up incohesive most of the time. The audience was left in amazement at how I act ually won the contest. For the next few years, I never quite succeed in public speaking, no matter how much work I put in. I later realized that I have been speaking in the shadows of my failure. Each time I speak, I was speaking in the shoes of the high school “me” who screwed up big time. As you can imagine, I never quite got over it.

My realization later become a moment of liberation for me as I consciously recreated a new being to take on. Instead of being the high school “me”, I took on being Wayaki, a charismatic leader in my literature text – The River Between. Every speech I gave become a manifestation of Wayaki. It was then I started to see improvements in my speeches.

The main point of this entry is this: WHO YOU ARE SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WHAT YOU SAY!!!

The next time you give a speech, I want you to try this for size. You got to have vivid imagination for this exercise to work. And it comes with practice so keep trying!

First, pick a speaker. He or she could be someone whom you respect or admire a lot. Visualize everything about the speaker in your head. The looks. The expressions. The body gestures. The voice. The words. The energy. Everything. And then picture yourself becoming that speaker as you give your speech. You can also play around by combining traits of various speakers. As you gain more experience speaking, you will find yourself creating your own speaking style. And when that happens, EMBRACE IT!

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8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Evaluate All Speakers, Simon Cowell’s style!

8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Part 5 May 28, 2006

Posted by Eric in Speaking Secrets.
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Ok let’s be honest. There is NO way you can improve your public speaking skills unless you get out there to speak! Just like swimming, you will never be able to master it just by reading a book. Granted that the book may offer you a comprehensive guide to 101 swimming techniques or over 200 dos and don’ts of swimming, but you will never master swimming until your feet touches water. Ask any experts and coaches, they will tell you the same thing. You got to get your hands dirty before you learn anything. This applies to any skills you want to pick up too. I would recommend that you read Scott Young’s insightful entry on Learn by Doing which pretty much says it all.

Stage time does not necessarily refer to an hour long speeches. It could be as short as a three min speech. In this case, frequency is much more important that the quantity of time you have to speak. I will encourage you to be creative when it comes to securing stage time for yourself. Joining the Toastmasters is one way since you will have a chance to speak at least twice a month. You can also look for other speaking opportunities – however short – in your school, workplace or even in your private organization. It can come in form of hosting for a dinner/meeting or conduct business presentations to your clients.

In this entry, I will share with you two ways you can maxmize your stage time.

1. Change your mindset

A lot of us complain about giving speeches for many reasons. I used to be one of them. In the past, giving a speech means gruelling hours of work because of my perfectionist attitude. I want to come up with a perfect speech, one that will wow my audience’s pants away. And since I am not at the peak of my craft, it was excrutiatingly fustrating to come up with a “perfect” speech.

However during a conversation with my mentor, I came to realize that my perfectionist attitude could jeopardize my growth. I decided to take a step back and reevaluate my mindset towards preparing and giving speeches. Instead of coming up with a perfect speech, I aim to improve at every speech that I give i.e. to be better than my previous speech. This change in mindset reduced the undue pressure I have on myself and gave me space to grow. The change in me was dramatic. I found myself grabbing at any opportunity to speak. And the process of preparing a speech become much more fun. I was more interested in the process of coming up with a speech, rather than the speech itself. And naturally, I got better.

So before you proceed on, I want you to first step back and reexamine your mindset towards giving a speech. If it is preventing you from moving forward, I urge you to change your mindset, one that will motivate you to get better at your craft. Because without a positive and constructive mindset, no amount of stage time (and self help) is going to help you!

2. Set goals

Great! So you have change your mindset and you are all motivated to speak. Now what?

You got to set goals. Let’s recap. Your intention is to be a better speaker correct? In other words, you want to get from X to Y. You have found motivation to get to Y. But if you have not figure out where Y is, no amount of motivation will get you there! Make sense? That’s why you have to set goals, particularly S.M.A.R.T goals! Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. In the case of giving a speech, you want to narrow down two or three areas that you want to improve on. Sometimes it could just be one area based on the feedback that you have gathered previously.

Say you gave a speech last month and you have gotten some feedback. One particular area was in the organization of your speech. In your next speech, you may want to focus on giving a speech that is more organized. Or someone commented that you moved too much (thus causing distractions). Hence you may want to work on body gestures in your next speech. The point is you will decide what goals to set!

However, you need to ensure that you are not overwhelmed with your goals. There is no way you can improve on everything within a short period of time. Hence the best strategy is to see which area is the most important to you and then work on that particular area.

Make sure that your goals are measurable else it is impossible for to objectively evaluate if you have improved or not. And that can be very demoralizing. The best way to measure the change is to ask your audience! They are your best judges. For example you are working on improving the organizational structure of your speech. Go back to the person who have commented about your speech organization. Ask if he or she has seen any improvement. And if so, how did it manifest? If it works, good for you. Move on to the next goal. If not, try another approach and then ask for feedback again.

You can also measure your performance using other variables such as timing, preparation time, confidence level or even trophies that you won. But here’s the bottomline, set goals that can be measured. If they aren’t, I suspect your goals are specific enough. If that’s the case, redefine your goal. Make sure it is specific.

Attainable and Realistic
I will put these two requirements today. One of the main reasons why goals don’t work is because we set extremely unrealistic goals. Some may argue that we should remain optimistic BUT you got to be honest with yourself too. If your goal is to win the International Speech Contest and you have yet to make a single speech, I would encourage you to pick a more attainable goal, like giving five speeches in the next three months.

Creating attainable goals are critical if you want to be successful. Give yourself the opportunity to create small wins because they fuel your confidence and generate momentum for you to create bigger wins! Imagine what it does to your ego and morale when you set goals that are hardly reachable. You will give up almost immediately when your air of optimism dissipates into the thin air. And trust me, it will!

So start small. Take a look at your present state and then plan the goals with respect to that. Every small step counts if it takes you to your destination!

When will you accomplish your goal? Within the next week, next month, next year, eternity???!!! You know what I mean. We are creatures of procrastination. Having specific, measurable, attainable and realistic goals doesn’t amount to anything unless you create a time frame to achieve your goal. In my opinion, if you want to see signficant improvement in your speaking skills, you got to speak at the very least twice a month. In fact I will suggest that you speak at least once a week if you are really determined to improve!

So… have you set S.M.A.R.T goals for your upcoming speech? If no, get moving!

Related Posts
8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Speak from the Heart
8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Be Coachable
8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Attract Mentors to Assist You
8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Evaluate All Speakers, Simon Cowell’s style!

Featured: Al Gore’s speech on Global Warming May 27, 2006

Posted by Eric in Videos.
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Here’s a break from all the four “secrets” I have shared with you. I want to show you a phenomenal speaker that you can learn from! He is Mr Al Gore, the former Vice President of United States of America.

Here are three things that were particularly outstanding in his presentation.

1. Effective use of visuals to tell a story

We all know that a picture tells a thousand words. But when your presentation is full of stunning visuals, attention-grabbing animation and captivating video clips, words do not matter anymore. For a good half an hour, Al Gore painted an extremely convincing picture – global warming is a serious threat and it is real. How? He hardly used any numbers to prove his point (thankfully). Probably a few graphs here and there. Instead, he showed us! By bringing up pictures after pictures, he allowed us to see it for ourselves. In my opinion, that’s the most convincing way of proving your point! He did not just tell us that the snowcap in Artic was disappearing. He showed us various pictures of the snowcap in Arctic at different year and got the audience to make their own conclusions. Another great example was the explanation of the relationship between greenhouse gases and global warming. Instead of explaining it with a picture, he showed us a Simpson video that was both informative and entertaining! He killed two birds with one stone. Impressive!

2. A compelling message

And it started with simplicity. Al Gore skillfully structured his hour-long speech with a really simple structure that most of us would have known about. He began his speech by proving the reality of global warming (with all the stunning visuals) and in his body; he gave us three causes of global warming. He then concluded with – in my opinion – one of the most compelling and inspirational call for action. (I will explain this in a bit.) Yet at every part of his speech, the message was the same. Global Warming is a serious threat and we must do something about it! His speech was supported by well-executed delivery. At one point in his speech, I muted his presentation. And yet I could still feel the intensity of his presentation. Al Gore is an example of an individual that speaks from the heart! He means every word that he said. He feels every word that he said. Who will not be convinced?

3. Conclusion to die for

We all know the reasons why a well-delivered conclusion is critical to the success of a speech, right? We have also heard speeches with pretty good conclusions. But trust me, nothing will prepare you for Al Gore’s gripping conclusion that was both inspiring and profound! In my opinion, he has set the new benchmark. Allow me to do some deconstruction.

He started the conclusion by painting two possible futures. One where our grandchildren will curse the name of this generation. The other was a future that resulted from the right values and the right perspectives. If you realized, just words alone did not create the impact. Go listen to it! It is at the 1 hr 13 mins 12 seconds mark. Feel the emotions he placed behind every single word. Anger. Indignation. Embarrassment. Compassion. Hope. Absolutely intense!

Another aspect of his conclusion that I found compelling was the skilful writing, particularly the use of juxtaposition. He started with Abraham Maslow’s quote – “If the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.” He then skillfully related it back to his message with this quote – “If every tool we use to measure what is important in our lives is a price tag, if money is the all mighty ruler of the world, then things without a price tag will have no value…” There were definitely more examples of juxtaposition in his conclusion. Shall not spoil the fun for you!

What made his conclusion powerful was also the element of profound-ness. He started the presentation with a slide of Earth and spent a large portion of time addressing the issues we have in Earth. Yet near to the end, it zoomed out and showed us Earth in the perspective of the entire cosmic galaxy. It was just a grey screen with a teeny weeny dot in the left hand corner. Like he said, we are merely a “mode of dust suspended on a sunbeam”. It was that moment that transcends all words, all argument, all emotions… He left us with a “Wooooooooowwwwwwwwww……….” and a standing ovation from the audience. He deserved it.

Check out Garr’s post on Al Gore’s presentation too.

8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Part 4 May 25, 2006

Posted by Eric in Speaking Secrets.


Over the two years, I have seen and heard my fair share of speeches that fell between the spectrum of “Spectacular” and “Horrendous”. Interestingly, it is not the most spectacular or most horrendous speeches that leave me the deepest impression. It is the speech that is given from the heart that made the most impact. In my opinion, when you give a speech that comes from your heart – a message that you care deeply about – you have already won the audience over!

In the past two days I have witnessed two speeches that were of “heart” quality. One of them was a speech given by Jennifer in Panorama Toastmasters. Her speech was titled “Inspiring by Example”. It was a very simple message yet at the end of the meeting, her speech was the most talked about. I believe it was because she spoke from the heart. Right from the start of the speech, we were drawn into the life of grandma Florence, a lady whom she love and respect a great deal. Her speech was spiced up with interesting anecdotes of her encounters with Grandma Florence. For that 7 minutes, we felt as if Grandma Florence was right here with us…

Then there was Dr Chris Pak. He was one of the panelists for last night’s entrepreneurial event – The Making of an Entrepreneur 2. He wasn’t the most articulate or charismatic speaker in the panel. But I will never forget his message. Never ever give up! It was with conviction and fervor that he delivered the message. He meant every word he said, with every fibre in his body and every chord of tenderness in his heart…

Jennifer and Chris are two ordinary speakers who have spoke with extraordinary passion and sincerity. These are the kind of speakers that will ALWAYS leave a deep impression in the audience. The next time you give a speech, talk about something that you are passionate about or share with your audience some personal stories that have inspired you. You don’t have to have the coolest passion or be the greatest storyteller. As long as you speak from your heart, your audience will be with you all the way!

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