Public speaking has been ranked the number one fear, ahead of death. And since death is the inevitable, it makes sense to conquer your fear of public speaking and even become a successful public speaker! This public speaking blog aims to give you insightful and easy-to-apply tips on various aspects of public speaking that includes overcoming your fear of public speaking, writing speeches, delivering speeches, excelling in presentations, adding humor and much more!

Friday, June 09, 2006

"Public Speaking for All" has moved!

I have moved the blog to Wordpress - cleaner layout with a more effective way of managing my content. More good stuff coming up so keep coming back!

Would be great if you can change your link to too. Thanks!!!

See you all at wordpress!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Things happen, pay attention!

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!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Just for Laughs: The Mechanics of Humor

Humor is all about creating surprises! The bigger the surprise, the more laughter you create. This video is an excellent example. :)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Get in the Game, but not without a Coach!

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.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

8 Speaking "Secrets" Revealed: Part 8


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)

Related Posts
8 Speaking "Secrets" Revealed: Set yourself up for Success
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!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

8 Speaking "Secrets" Revealed: Part 7


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!

Monday, May 29, 2006

8 Speaking "Secrets" Revealed: Part 6


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!

Related Posts
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!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

8 Speaking "Secrets" Revealed: Part 5


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!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Featured: Al Gore's speech on Global Warming

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.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

8 Speaking "Secrets" Revealed: Part 4


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!

Related Posts
I have added an afternote to my second speaking "secrets" on attracting mentors. Click Speaking "Secrets" Revealed": Part 2

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!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

8 Speaking "Secrets" Revealed: Part 3


To start off, I will like to quote 1999 World Champion Speaker, Craig Valentine:

"Many people are looking for validation, not education."

How true isn't it? There was once this guy came up to me to ask for comments on his speech. In response, I complimented him and also pointed out a part of his speech that he could improve on. And boy was I in for a shock. All of a sudden, he became defensive and started justifying his actions for the next 15 mins. Apparently I heard him wrong. He wanted me to compliment him and tell him what he wants to hear. He doesn't want any tips on how he can improve. If I would have realized it, I could have avoid the embarassment.

So how open are you to other people's comments and advice? How coachable are you?

You may get the best mentor in the world who has the most incisive insights but if you are not willing to listen and try it for size, there is no way you will ever improve. The most dangerous thing that can happen to a speaker is when he or she becomes complacent. You will find them sitting on their laurels, building false sense of security from their past successes. They stop asking for help. They stop trying new things. They stop becoming hungry and thirsty for new opportunities to grow. And soon, they stop becoming as good as they used to be... and they wonder why...

When you are not coachable, you essentially shortchanged yourself. You shut doors of opportunities to become a phenomenal speaker. And worse, you run the risk of becoming a mediocre speaker. Is that what you want?

Instead, I encourage everyone of you to be a SPONGE! Soak up everything that you can from everyone around you. Remember the first speaking secret I shared with you? Start evaluating any speaker that come your way. See how you can incorporate the good stuff into your speech and avoid all the bad stuff.

Be willing to question the old way of doing things. Each time someone comes up to you to offer their suggestions, listen really hard. Because they have just given you a golden opportunity to be better at your craft. If you find yourself resisting, drop it and listen. Take notes if you want. And spend time thinking through their suggestions. See how you can apply them. If it works, keep it. If it doesn't, chuck it aside. And no matter what you do, keep moving forward!

The next time you think you have hit your peak, stretch yourself and you will find yourself reaching out for a higher peak!

8 Speaking "Secrets" Revealed: Attract Mentors to Assist You.
8 Speaking "Secrets" Revealed: Evaluate All Speakers, Simon Cowell's style!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

8 Speaking "Secrets" Revealed: Part 2


Nothing new really. Quite frankly, this is a universal advice that you hear everyone giving yet I do not see many people embracing it. But if you are looking at becoming a phenomental speaker in the shortest amount of time, then mentors are indispensable. Let me first answer a couple of questions that you may have about these group of miracle workers called Mentors.

What is a Mentor?

I see a mentor as an individual whom I am inspired by and has a lot to teach because of his or her wealth of experience. And there are a lot out there with the potential to be your mentor BUT… not all of them will be willing which makes them unsuitable. So the challenge is to find someone whom you are comfortable with (and even inspired by), with a whole lot of experience and is willing to teach you. Now that's tough but not impossible.

Why are mentors important?

A mentor helps you avoid the mistakes that he or she has made in the past.
A mentor shares with you his knowledge and wisdom so that you can be successful.
A mentor acts as your mirror, showing you things that you are blind to or refuse to see.
A mentor becomes your lighthouse when you are at your lowest.
A mentor brings out the best in you by giving you space to grow.
A mentor believes in you and constantly pushes you past your limits.
A mentor never do the work for you but he runs alongside you.
A mentor knows when to get out of your way so that you can soar.

When you have a mentor that does all the above, there is absolutely no way you can fail!

Over the past two years, I have found several mentors who have helped me a great deal. Some stayed with me for a while and then left as they believed I have learnt all that I can from them. Some continued staying with me, guiding me and pushing me past my limits. All of them have not only taught me how to become a competent speaker but also how to live a fulfilled life. They inspired me to find my calling and help others with my strengths. I would not have been where I am if not for them. And for that, I am deeply grateful.

How do you "find" a mentor?

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear" - Anonymous

If you have realized by now, you do not have to go out and seek mentors. They will find you when you are ready. Let me explain.

I once asked my mentors why they were willing to mentor me but they could not really give me a definite answer. Come to think of it, it just happen naturally. Say Terence for example. I met him at one of his public speaking seminars. He was extremely passionate about public speaking (and still is). He inspired me so much that I just kept getting in touch with him. I would come up with a whole list of questions and he will patiently answer them. I will go out and try them for size and give him feedback. We then repeat the process. And then we start meeting up more often. He start sharing with me more stuff. And without me realizing it, Terence became my mentor! The same goes with the rest of my mentors. I showed up. I asked. They answered. I gave them feedback. And we start all over again.

So if you ask me, it all starts with first being passionate and determined in improving your speaking skills. Because when you are focused in getting better at what you do, you automatically attract people to help you. And the best part, they WANT to make you successful because of your desire. And remember, when these people come your way, do everything that you can to keep them by your side. Don't take them for granted!

I will like to leave you with a line in Paulo Coelho's bestseller - The Alchemist. You will find it very apt in the context of finding mentors.

"If you want something badly enough, the entire universe will conspire to give you what you want!"

8 Speaking "Secrets" Revealed: Evaluate All Speakers, Simon Cowell's style!

Afternote - May 25, 2006

I just came home from a panel discussion which I was moderating. The topic was "Human Capital for Entrepreneurial Success". Interestingly, the idea of having mentors in our lives keeps surfacing. And so I took the liberty of asking the panelists to give us insights into how we can find mentors in our lives. Since we are on the topic of attracting mentors, I decided to give all of you a quick commentary.

One of the panelists, Jeffrey Babin, explained that we can find our mentors by focusing on our passion. Along the way, we will find people who also have common interests with us. These are the potential mentors we want to have!

We have another panelist, Carol Ammon, who reminded us that there is no perfect mentor (how true!!!). There is no one person that can fit all aspects that you want to learn from. However we can have many mentors who will be able to help us in specific areas. So don't be afraid to go out and find as many mentors as you want. Be greedy when it comes to your personal growth!

And of course, I have one panelist, Thomas Tillett who echoed what I have shared with you in this entry. You don't find mentors. They find you!! And this ties in with what Professor Babin has said as well. Focus on your passion. Keep exploring ways you can refine your craft. People around you will be so inspired by your dedication that they cannot help but step up to be your mentor.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

8 Speaking "Secrets" Revealed: Part 1


One of the fastest (and fun!) way you can grow as a speaker is to be an active audience. Evaluate ALL speakers that come your way, Simon Cowell style! This is how you can have a clearer understanding of what separates a mediocre speaker from a good speaker, and a great speaker from a phenomenal speaker. Remember this: No matter how good or bad the speaker is, there is always something valuable to learn. This is so important that I am going to repeat it.

No matter how good or bad the speaker is, there is always something valuable to learn.

Remember all the positive things that the speaker does and try it for size. See if it works for you.

Remember all the negative things that the speaker does and avoid it at all costs. Sometimes, you may want to ask yourself how you can modify and make it effective.

All of us - at some degree - evaluate speakers. We hear them all the time: "This guy is awesome!" or "Look at how he charmed the audience..." or "Gosh, he should not have crack this joke." etc. However these evaluations are not thorough enough to offer much teaching value. They are merely observations. In order for us to learn to be better speakers, we have to probe deeper. Question your reactions to the speakers. What the speaker do/not do to make us think he is awesome? How did the speaker charmed you? Why do you think the joke is inappropriate? By asking these questions, you will then have a deeper understanding of the speaker's motives and also objectively evaluate (as the audience) if it is effective.

I have an extremely simple way to evaluate any speaker - Use the 5W and H. Pay full attention to the speaker and his delivery. And then ask yourself the following questions:

What did the speaker do that you like/dislike? What are the speakers' strengths and weaknesses? What are the speaker's strategies? What causes the speaker to be successful (or not)?

How did these strengths/weaknesses manifest itself in the delivery? How effective are the speakers' strategies? How can the speaker improve? How can the speaker better himself?

Why did this aspect of the speech puts you off/appeals to you? Why do you think the speaker select this approach/style/topic?

Who is his target audience? Who will benefit from the speaker's speech/style?

When was the last time you have heard a similar speech?

Where in the speech did the speaker create the most impact? Where in the speech were you lost/mesmerized?

Notice all the 5W and 1H can help you generate a whole list of questions? However there is no way you can have answers for all these questions by listening to the speech once (unless you have a photographic memory). What you can do though is to record the speech so that we can re-listen to it and uncover more learning points. Having said that I would recommend that you start with three questions:

1. What did the speaker did well or badly?
2. How can I apply the good points into my speech?
3. How can I avoid making the same mistakes that speaker made?


As you proceed on, you will find yourself automatically looking our for strengths and weaknesses in the speaker. When you become more comfortable, you can delve deeper and begin disecting the speech. You will find youself welcoming ALL speakers even the extremely boring ones coz there will always be something to learn! You will find your growth as a speaker accelerating. You avoid mistakes committed by others. You get to experiment stuff that works. You have more chance to make new mistakes which means more room for growth! Too good to be true right? Believe it!

And more importantly, start doing it. Speakers are everywhere. They can be your daily reporter, lecturer, classmate, supervisor, door salesman, telemarketer etc. The world is your classroom!

Oh one more thing, remember to jot down your evaluations somewhere. You may want to start a journal or even a blog. Whatever it is, write them down so that you can reference them in future when you prepare your next speech. Come to think of it, we should have some kind of Speakers' Idol! :)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Speaking "Secrets" Revealed: Introduction

Recently a lot of my friends have taken an interest in improving their public speaking skills. Two of them have even decided to sign up for a Toastmasters club in the coming week. Way to go! Like any skill, public speaking takes time to hone. The best advice I can give to anyone is to start small. You can begin by reading one public speaking related article a day or make a conscious effort to write and give a 5 mins speech, once a month. Joining a Toastmasters club is also an excellent way to pace yourself in becoming a competent speaker. Bottomline - do SOMETHING, no matter how small it is. Remember the race between the tortoise and the hare: Slow and steady win the race! And in no time, you will see yourself growing phenomenally.

Looking back, public speaking has changed my life dramatically...

Two years ago after watching Jim Key, 2003 International Speech Contest champion, inspiring the audience including myself that it is never too late to dream, I embarked on a personal quest to become an accomplished speaker myself. That was my dream and it still is. Over the two years, I read almost everything I can get my hands about public speaking. I gave over 96 speeches and presentations (min. 2 per week) in the last one year. And yet my journey has only begun! It was tough yet every step of the way was exhilarating. There was always something to learn. Needless to say, my passion in public speaking grew, fueling my desire to get even better. Recently, I found this desire being manifested in helping other people get better at public speaking, which explains this public speaking blog that I started two months ago.

To bring this one step further, I would like to share with all of you - in the next eight entries - eight things I did that fueled my growth as a speaker. They are no rocket science yet each of them plays an important role in my growth. I hope that by sharing with you what works for me, you will be inspired to embark on your own quest in becoming an accomplished speaker! Watch this space!

Giving an After-Dinner Speech

One of the toughest kind of speeches to make is an after-dinner speech since everyone will be feeling sleepy after their meal. And worse, they may not even give you their full attention. There are many things that can go wrong and as an after-dinner keynote speaker, there are a couple of things you have to observe in order to be successful or at the very least, to sit down without feeling embarassed.

1. Find an appropriate topic

As a speaker, you have to find a topic that ALL your audience can relate to. And this applies to all kind of speeches, particulatly after-dinner speeches. There are many things that are against you. At most dinners, tables are rounded. That means to say that a percentage of your audience has their back facing you. Circular tables also facilitate small talks which gives them another reason not to listen to you. Your audience's attention span is also not at its highest. Many of them may still be enjoying their desserts. You have waiters and waitresses walking around to clear the dishes, which can be both distracting for your audience and you! As you can see, there are many reasons for them not to listen to you. You do not need to give them another one.

So spend at least 30% of your time researching your audience. Find out more about the organization. Find out more about your audience - what do they do, what are some of their concerns, what are the taboo topics. The organizer would be a great resource for you to understand the audience. Sometimes they may even propose some topics that you can talk about. It also helps to be aware of the current trends in the world because very likely, your audience knows about it as well, and they would be able to relate when you talk about it.

Let me give you a specific example. Last night I attended a dinner that was commemorating the Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. The audience were made up of various Asian ethnic communities that come together to promote understanding and acceptance of the different Asian cultures and heritage. I thought their vision was commendable and the keynote speaker could emphasize on the importance of collaboration and acceptance (since that was what drove them to set up this association)

However one of the speakers took the entire 15 minutes his tribulations in Vietnam and how he was invited to be part of the association. Quite frankly, the entire speech was about HIM, and not about the audience. That's a major turn-off. What he could have done is to explain the increasing importance of the association and how each and everyone of them can benefit from being part of this association. Notice how the focus changes. It is more audience-centric and there is a take home message. What I got our of the speaker's speech was "Wow... he was imprisioned for three years in Vietnam..."

2. Own the space!

Right after the war survivor was yet another keynote speaker. He started off well with a story about how people would always ask about his nationality. That created some laughs and he was off for a good start. And then the entire speech went crashing. At the end of his speech, I felt extremely embarrassed for him.

Firstly, no one except for the three tables in front (out of courtesy) were listening to him. Everyone else was busy chattering away, walking in and out of the restaurants to make phone calls. It doesn't help that he stood behind the podium. It doesn't help that he was reading from his script with his eyes down most of the time. It doesn't help that he was inaudible. It doesn't help that he failed to salvage the situation. Amidst of the chaos, he gave his speech, oblivious to the fact that he is losing everyone. And the organizer has to go around shushing everyone. How embarassing and unnecessary!

One advice for him: You got to own the space!

When you come up on stage, you got to consciously tell yourself that you are in charge. You own the space! Every inch of the room belongs to you. Every single one of your audience is obliged to drop everything that they are doing and listen to you. Even the waiters and waitresses will stop in their steps and listen to you. Every thing that you do or not do commands the listening of your audience. In other words, nothing else matters except you. That's how powerful a speaker can be if he effectively manages the "energy" of the room. One way to do that is through a visualization exercise before your speech. Imagine yourself walking confidently up on stage. Hear the reverberating sound of your foot steps as you walked up on the stage. Feel the anticipation of your audience as you walked towards to the podium... Make use of all your five senses to create the best speech you can ever made. You can even add a standing ovation at the end of your speech! And guess what, you have almost won the entire game even before you start!

And among all other things, avoid standing behind the podium and project your voice to the back of the room. Make sure that everyone can see and hear you. Only that will they be able to feel your speech and be inspired by your message!

The next time you listen to an after-dinner speech or give one yourself, watch how these two principles manifest itself. Good luck!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Ten Definite Ways to Piss Your Audience Off

We are all experts at playing the role of the audience, thanks to the countless presentations that we have sit through. Quite frankly, we have seen it all! I thought it would be interesting to give you my list of ten things a presenter can do to piss me off. See if this tallies with yours!

Starting from the bottom...

10. Using clip art animation (at times, this makes me laugh... but not in the good way)
9. Starting weak: "I guess I should probably get started.... uh...ok here goes..."
8. Giving us zero eye contact
7. Reading off the slides
6. Having slides with heap full of words (and MORE words!)
5. Having NO message (Variation: Failing to make a point and leaving us confused)
4. Mumbling throughtout the entire speech
3. Apologizing to the audience right at the start:"I'm not exactly sure what I want to say but I will try..."
2. Ending late - it's obvious you don't respect our time!
And the number one thing you can do to piss me off the roof is this...

1. Be totally unprepared - it shows how much you value us!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Microsoft redesigns iPOD Package

Couldn't resist posting this here. A powerful lesson on the importance of simplicity! Don't understand why presenters love flooding their powerpoint slides with bullet points of text after bullet points of text. And worst, clip-art that are cartoonish and distracting. If confusion is what they are aiming for, they sure score an A++!

Check out Garr's related post: Noise and Elimination of the Nonessential

How to create a speech in less than 10 mins

Most of us don't really have the luxury of creating speeches weeks in advance. And even if we do, we tend to leave it till the very last minute. I'm definitely guilty of that. This entry talks about how you can create a speech in less than 10 mins that is equally effective and to-the-point (without all the fluff!)

1. Start with the conclusion!

Echoing Steven Covey's 2nd habit, it is critical to have the end in mind. In the case of your speech, ask yourself what's your message? Are you convincing the board to say yes to the new IT project? Are you inspiring your committee to work as team? Are you persuading your customers to buy your product? No matter what speech you make, however long or short it is, you ALWAYS have a message!

Sidenote: If your speech is a relatively short one (say 5-10 mins), focus on just one message. In that way, your audience has a higher chance of remembering it.

2. Three points max

What are three reasons why this IT project is critical to the growth of your company?
What are three ways your team can follow their heart?
What are three problems that can be solved by using your product?

For every point you made, substantiate with an example or even tell a mini story to underscore your point.

3. Work on an attention grabber

The first 30 seconds of your speech is the most important as your audience will subconsciously decide if they should listen to you for the next 9 minutes and 30 seconds. So you should always aim to grab their attention right from the start. It can come in many forms. Here are a list of attention grabbers that you can try for size.

Startling fact
Expert Opinion
Dramatic gesture
Rhetorical question
Reference to a current event
Live demostration

My personal favorite is rhetorical questions because it gets the audience thinking. There was once I gave a keynote speech that inspires the audience to live for the moment. I started my keynote with three questions.

When was the last time you sat down and saw the entire sunset?
When was the last time you have ever taste your food?
When was the last time you have called your mum and tell her how much you love her?

That immediately set the tone of my keynote. My guess is that most of them have not done the above three things for a long long time. Asking these rhetorical questions gets them interested to know what I have to say next.

Together with your attention grabber is an answer to the following question - "Why should the audience listen to you?" or "What's in it for them?" This will create a stake for them and you will have them eating from your hands.


Practice makes Permanence! I cannot emphasize the importance of practice! Try out the techniques as often as you can. You will find yourself getting increasingly competent. With the extra time at hand, you can then focus on improving the quality of your speech or honing your delivery skills. In no time, you will be on your way to become a highly effective speaker!

Related Posts:
How to make your presentations most effective

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A quick recap: Ten Comedy Secrets of Becoming Absolutely Funny on Stage!

That's right. Being funny is not a God-given talent. It can be learnt just like swimming, baseball and writing. For more details on each tip, click on the links below.

1. It is a process
2. You need stage time
3. Audience laughed when they are successfully tricked
4. Humor stands for tragedy
5. The best jokes aren’t written. They are rewritten.
6. Attitude
7. Great Improv isn’t!
8. Material, Delivery and Setting = WOW!
9. It is never the audience, it is ALWAYS you!
10. Comedy is about belief.

Ten Comedy Secrets of Becoming Absolutely Hilarious on Stage - Part 1
Ten Comedy Secrets of Becoming Absolutely Hilarious on Stage - Part 2
Ten Comedy Secrets of Becoming Absolutely Hilarious on Stage - Part 3
Ten Comedy Secrets of Becoming Absolutely Hilarious on Stage - Part 4

Ten Comedy Secrets of Becoming Absolutely Hilarious on Stage - Part 4

Have you tried any of the eight comedy secrets yet? If not, get going! And remember, you don’t have to do a stand up to apply them. You can start with your business presentation tomorrow or even over lunch with your colleagues. Most importantly, remember this: you need all the “stage time” you can be proficient at being funny. Let’s cover the final two tips.

9. It is never the audience. It is ALWAYS you!

When things don't work out well, we tend to blame it on the audience. Example, they are boring or they do not appreciate comedy and blah blah blah. Blaming doesn’t help make you a better and funnier speaker. Instead you may want to start taking responsibility. Ask yourself what you have done/not done that causes the audience to be bored? That would be a good starting point to improve your speaking skills.

Having said that, there are a couple of things you can do to ensure that you know your audience a bit better, which means that you will have a much easier time connecting with your audience.

(i) Pick up the local paper on the day of your performance and read it of coz
(ii) Research on your audience beforehand (ask the organizing committee, go to the Internet, send a questionaire)
(iii) Go earlier to your performing venue (and observe your audience!)

10. Comedy is about belief.

You must believe that it is funny and you have the ability to deliver it. Pretty obvious isn’t? One of the things that Darren suggested was to study video tapes or to observe the funny people on TV. Learn from people who make you laugh. See what works for them and try applying them to your speeches. This is one of the fastest ways you can find your own funny bone.

So this is it! Ten comedy secrets that you can apply right away AND be hilarious on stage! Go for it!

Ten Comedy Secrets of Becoming Absolutely Hilarious on Stage - Part 1
Ten Comedy Secrets of Becoming Absolutely Hilarious on Stage - Part 2
Ten Comedy Secrets of Becoming Absolutely Hilarious on Stage - Part 3

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ten Comedy Secrets of Becoming Absolutely Hilarious on Stage - Part 3

Welcome back to the third part of the series "Ten Comedy Secrets of Becoming Absolutely Hilarious on Stage". If this is your first time, you may want to first read:

Ten Comedy Secrets of Becoming Absolutely Hilarious on Stage - Part 1
Ten Comedy Secrets of Becoming Absolutely Hilarious on Stage - Part 2

Ready? Let's go!

7. Great Improv isn’t!

How many of you have watched an improv comedy show like "Who's line is it anyway?" or even attend a live one? Aren't they amazing?? They speak off the cuff yet it is funny, witty and even smart. In my opinion, that's one of the toughest genre of speaking to pull off!

However in Darren's presentation, he talked about how we can "improvise". Instead of speaking off the cuff (which sometimes may or may not work), he tells us to prepare beforehand the comeback lines.

What do you say when the following happens?

1. Cell phone rings
2. Projector bulb blows.
3. Fre alarm went off
4. People coming late etc.

These are situations that will happen! Remember Murphy's Law - if something can happen, it will happen.

He proposed that we writing down the improv lines. Watch standup comedians perform, watch live/broadcast improv comedies. Jot down their lines. And file them away. The next time you do a speech, you can memorize some and apply it when the situation comes along.

You can also do some reverse engineering. Think about the possible situations that may happen. (say the above four) and think about how you can create come back lines for them. You will look like a genius!!!

Take a look at some really sucky comeback lines. Avoid that at all cause!

Ready for more?

8. Material, Delivery and Setting = WOW!

Here's a little mathematical formula for you smarties out there. If you recall, the previous seven points cover essentially material and delivery. However Darren emphasized that setting is even MORE important than the other two.

He defined setting as the environment where the communication is transpired eg. room setup. In comedy, room setup is extremely important. You need to create an intimate environment so that everyone can loosened up and be all prep up for laughs.

In my opinion, the number of people is an important factor too, in terms of the setting. I did the same humorous speech twice but at two different settings. The first setting was spacious but the audience was spaced out across the room. And it doesn't help that only 50% of the chairs were filled. The second setting was equally spacious and much bigger but everyone was packed together in the front. There was at least twice as many people as the previous one. And as you have guessed it, the second presentation was much more effective. They laugh harder and more frequently. I guess there are two reasons for that.

One, people feel more secure in a big crowd - they are less shy and more willing to laugh.
Two, your chances of triggering a laugh is much higher with a large crowd (which creates a spill over effect) When you partner laughs, you automatically laugh along too. Strange but true.

The last thing to note about setting would be distractions. It could come in the form of phone ringing and people walking in. One way of getting the audience's attention back to you would be do a comeback. (see above) Say something witty. And make the audience laugh. They will love you! Another way is to prepare beforehand. Talk to the organizers and get them to help you minimize movement/latecomers etc.

You may want to start tuning into Comedy Central or catch the next show of Whose line is it anyway this Thursday at 8pm (ABC)!

Ten Comedy Secrets of Becoming Absolutely Hilarious on Stage - Part 1
Ten Comedy Secrets of Becoming Absolutely Hilarious on Stage - Part 2

Monday, May 15, 2006

Ten Comedy Secrets of Becoming Absolutely Hilarious on Stage - Part 2

Seems like comedy is a hot topic yeah? I got a lot of diggs for the previous article. Here another three hot tips for you to be a hot fave on stage!

4. Humor stands for tragedy

Comedians are effectively just people who get paid to complain! And it is true that a large of comedy comes from tragedy, such as your embarrassing moments, being called a fat ass, being ditched by ugly ex girlfriends/boyfriends, crazy bosses who demands you to work 8 hours/day. It could even be as silly as slapsticks (like slamming yourself on the lamp post as you tried to pick up a girl...) Take a look at America Funniest Home Videos. Tons of slapsticks. But guess what, people love it!

People love to hear other people's tragedy coz' it relieves theirs. It is really as simple as that. But here's lies the danger as well. Some people unleash their personal tragedies without giving a humorous spin with it. And it often turns out to be an absolute sob story. Trust me, we have enough pain in our world. We don't need yours!

There was one year in the humor contest when this gentleman talks about his heart attack experience. Mind you, it almost killed him. But when he related his near death encounter to us, the audience was roaring with laughter. We love the story! And no prize for guessing the winner for the humor contest.

So remember, open your eyes and take note of your personal tragedies. Don't just mull over it. Make full use of it - tell a story, point out a contradiction and most importantly make your audience laugh!

A final note (borrowed from Steve Roye, a really funny standup comedian):
"Comedy is tragedy. However tragedy all by itself is best suited for the funeral home, attorney's office or the pyschotherapist's office than it is on the comedy stage."

5. The best jokes aren’t written. They are rewritten.

This tip is built on the previous tip on Comedy is a process!!!

In his CD, Darren raves about his mentor who after 11 years of doing standup comedy has only 1 hour and 14 mins of material. Not one min more, not more min less. Just 1 hour 14 mins of absolutely spine-tickling stuff!

It is really that simple. Tell a story and figure out what was it that make people laugh. Focus on what make them laugh. See if you can make it funnier. Work on the not-so-funny stuff, see if you can make it funnier. For those dead jokes, remove them. Add new ones and test it out again. In no time, you will have a compact speech with absolutely hilarious stuff.

6. Attitude

I think Darren is talking about the body language behind every punchline that you make. Like an actor, you got to FEEL your lines. If you are suppose to be angry, be angry! If you are suppose to be sad, be sad! The use of pauses is also extremely important. It creates suspense. It creates anticipation. Both are important elements of surprise which makes your line funny. If you rush through your funny line, say "Take my wife please!", it is not going to be as funny as "Take my wife... please!!!"

Whispering also helps make your lines funnier. I experimented it some time ago and it works like wonder! Remember my speech on "There's something about Singapore". The tragedy in the story lies in my country being extremely small. I also lamented on how people thought that Singapore is part of China (which is the case!!!)

So as you can guess, one of my punchlines was "Singapore is part of China!"

During the second part, I explained to my audience two reasons why Singapore do not like to be call "part of China"

"Reason number one... (whisper) Coz we are not part of China..."

The audience love this line best! After much though, I realize that it has to be do with me being all secretive (by whispering), only to tell them something that they should have already know. Yes it is so DUH!!!!!!! But here's the irony, people still think we are part of China!! How amazing.

Review your speech. See if you can add an emotion, a body language, a pause or a whisper in your line. It is worth the tickle and the fun your audience have!

RELATED: Ten Comedy Secrets of Becoming Absolutely Hilarious on Stage - Part 1

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Ten Comedy Secrets of Becoming Absolutely Hilarious on Stage - Part 1

I recently got hold of the 2001 Champion Speaker - Darren La Croix's CD on how to become absolutely hilarious on stage. I shall present to you the first three with my thoughts on it.

1. It is a process

CREATE AND TEST. CREATE AND TEST. CREATE AND TEST. In my opinion, this is the most useful tip one needs to know. You do not have to be born funny. It helps but not a must. The process starts with writing the funny lines, giving the funny lines and then reviewing the funny lines. For lines that aren't funny (i.e doesn't create any laughter), remove them and add in a new line to test. For lines that are funny, see if you can make them funnier. Say out of 100 lines, you have only one line that is funny. Keep that and write another 99. Test them. Keep the funny lines. Add new lines. Test them.. you get what I mean. In no time, you will have 100 funny lines. Remember my friends, it is a process!

2. You need stage time

Building on the first tip, you never know if your line is funny unless you test it, which explains the stage time. A very important advice: What you think is funny may not necessarily be funny for your audience. And since your job is to make them laugh, they are the boss! (grins)

One way of testing your funny lines or jokes is to incorporate them into your everyday conversation. Do not even tell your friends that you are testing a funny story or that a joke is coming their way. Make it come naturally and see what happens. This is usually the most effective and there is significantly less bias. You will then get a chance to objectively test your "perceived funny" lines.

3. Setup and Punchline (Audience laughed when they are successfully tricked)

This is a little technical but I will try my best to simplify it.

Fundamentally, a line is funny because it creates an element of surprise. I like how Darren describes it. You lead them down the track with your setup, only to derail them with your punchline. That, my friend, causes the humor. Take this for example.

Take my wife....... please!!!

When he says "Take my wife", we expected that he wanted to take his wife somewhere (he lead us to believing so - the setup)
BUT... he tricked us when he gave his punchline "PLEASE!!!"

Let me give you another example of my recent humorous speech - There's something about Singapore where I lead my audience down several tracks, only to derail them at the end.

Singapore is extremely small. It's about 16 miles from North to South and 14 miles from East to West... about the size of Bill Gates' living room. (laughter)

Let me help you paint a clearer picture.

Imagine this building (i.e. 60th storey high building) is USA. You will know big Singapore is when you...visit the Men's Room. (laughter)... third cubicle (laughter)...under the toilet seat (laughter)...

For the first part "it's about 16 miles.... east to west..." I made the audience believe that I was being serious by giving them all the numbers. And then I surprised them by comparing Singapore with Bill Gate's living room which of course is an exaggeration. And that causes surprise which leads to laughter!

Then we have the comparison with the 60th storey building with the cubicle. That itself is funny on its own. But my audience has no idea that I am not done with it. So when I said "third cubicle", it creates even more surprise and they laugh harder. And I did it again with "under the toilet seat"... fully milking the joke and emphasizing my point of how Singapore is. (by the way it is true! We are freaking small!)

So the next time you intend to incorporate humor in your speech, see if you can come up with a setup-punchline structure. Remember, audience laugh becaused they are tricked. No a usual reaction so take full advantage of it! :)

More comedy secrets coming up in the next few posts. So watch this space!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Top Three BOO BOOs We All Made!

It has been a while since I play the role of the audience. Last night was one such opportunity. The presenter was an intern from Shanghai and he flew in with his boss to States. His presentation was titled "Life in China" with the aim of sharing with us his experiences. He did relatively well but hit several boo-boo which I thought reduce the effects of his presentation. And these boo-boo weren't really new. Speech coaches and Public Speaking books/e-books/blogs have warned us against committing these seemingly innocent crimes, at the expense of losing your audience. But you know what, people still do it. All the time. Instead of reinterating the points, I shall get you into the head of the audience (since I was one yesterday) and perhaps illustrate why you should avoid these boo-boos.

Boo Boo #1: Not telling us why we should listen to you

Never assume that just because you have an audience, they are obliged to listen to you. We may love you (that's why we came in the first place) BUT never take advantage of the trust we have for you. This is extremely a turn-off when I have to do the work i.e. figure out how it is relevant to me. We are a bunch of selfish ego-maniacs. We love ourselves so much! And we don't care about your experiences UNLESS it teaches us something that we can use for OURSELVES. So here's a word of advice: If you want to share your experiences, please do. But always include a message, something that will benefit us, your beloved audience!

Boo Boo #2: Ignoring us throughout your speech

We get bored easily. Period. If you keep talking about you, you, you, you, you... we will switch off. We want to be part of your speech. We really do. Get us involved. It could be as simple as asking us a question. It gives us a chance to hear ourselves talk. It could be as simple as playing a mini game with us. It gets us up the seat. Entertain us please! Make us love you. We really want to. But if you keep ignoring us and our needs, we will do the same.

Lucky for him, he allowed us to ask questions at any point in his presentation and guess what, we did! In my opinion, that was his saving grace!

Boo Boo #3: Going overtime

No matter how good you are, NEVER EVER go over time!!! Unless we paid you thousands of dollars to teach us something and you are about to share with us the ultimate secret to earning another ten million. If you want your audience to love you, end earlier than expected! It tells us that you respect our time. It makes you special coz' most speakers don't observe that. And guess what, the next time you give your speech, we will be there to support you!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Erm... Where's Point X?

Imagine yourself hiking in the Amazon rainforest and you get lost, the most intuitive thing is to call a friend right? And that is assuming you do not have a WAP phone that can access Google Maps! :) And say you are extremely lucky and you got through. What will be the first thing your friend will ask you when you inform him that you are freaking lost!

In my case, "AGAIN???!!!"
And since you are not me, which makes you normal, you will most likely hear this from your friend:


You see, there is no way you can get out of the rainforest unless you first know where you are! Even if you are very clear of where you want to go (in this case, to get out of the rainforest), you may only have one out of a thousand chances of succeeding. Most of us will be like this:

And then you wonder why you can never get to your goal. Worse, some people will hire the best trainers to help them be more effective, only to find themselves getting to the wrong destination FASTER!

Borrowing one of the principles of coaching, you got to first know where you are - your current state. In the case of the lost traveller, he needs to figure out where he is NOW. So what if he has the best compass or a 3D map of the forest? He will never be able to find his way out until he knows where he is on the map.

Similarly as a speaker, we have to first know where we are at, in terms of our speaking capabilities and experiences. There are many people out there who will spend lots of money buying public speaking books or hiring really expensive coaches to help them improve. Nothing wrong with that. But before you attempt the more expensive routes, I have a cheaper alternative that will help you to make a wiser investment.

Like the traveller, first examine your current position. Two questions to get you started.

1. What do you think are your speaking strengths and weaknesses?
2. How about your audience - how do they rate you?

Once you come up with a list of your strengths and weaknesses (both rated by you and your audience) i.e. your Point X, you can then determine which path to take to get to Point Y. And that's the fun part coz' you will have full control of determing how you want to get there.

Oh... but for all this to work (and get to Point Y), you gotta walk the path too! Always!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Extremely EZ tip to accelerate your growth as a speaker!

Here's a quick and extremely easy-to-implement tip to forward your communication skills. (You can apply this anywhere too!)

Stop asking WHY. Try asking HOW.

Often at the end of our presentation, we will reflect on how well or bad we did. And it usually comes in the form of "why" questions.

Why did the audience look so bored?
Why didn't I remember my script?
Why am I so sucky in public speaking?

True that these questions set you thinking, but not necessary move you forward! Here's the problem. "Why" questions forces you to come up with 101 reasons WHY you did something or WHY something did not happen. They trick you to justify your own actions, which ironically lead you to inaction.

To be on the safe side, do this instead.

Ask "How"!

How can I make the audience less bored?
How can I remember my script the next time round?
How can be less sucky in my next speech?

Notice the change? Instead of finding reasons to explain the past, you begin to come up with constructive solutions to get better. Simple isn't?

Asking questions isn't enough anymore. You have to ask the right questions coz they sets you moving forward. Ask the wrong questions and they form your stumbling blocks. So the next time you reflect on your performance, ask HOW!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

#1 Rule to Becoming a Successful Speaker:
Be (very) LAZY!!!

Let me repeat. If you want to be a successful speaker on stage, be extremely lazy! And I am not the only wacko that says so. Fred Gratzon, a successful entrepreneur who founded the Great Midwestern Ice Cream Company and a telecommunications company Telegroup that went public in 1997 proved that theory. He even wrote an e-book that convincingly argued how we can do nothing and accomplish everything!

You can download a sample of the book from here!

Central to Fred book is his personal axiom:

Success is inversely proportional to hard work. That means, as effort and hard work become less, success becomes more. As you move towards effortlessness, success moves towards infinity.

In my opinion, Fred’s wacky axiom makes a lot of sense. If you want to become a very successful speaker, you may want to think twice about trudging along the “hard work” path. Not that hard work is wrong, but perhaps there is a much easier path that requires less sweat and pain. Who won’t want that? Not unless you are a masochistic weirdo that takes pride in torturing yourself. If that’s the case, I say join the army.

Looking back at how I triumphed over my fear of public speaking and evolved into a gung-ho speaker in a short span of one and a half year, I believe I may have stumbled upon The Alternate Path, a path that Fred described to be of greater ease and effortlessness.

Here’s how you can walk that path. Just five words.


That’s right. Very simple. Very DUH! Yet how many of us are doing it? Fearing public speaking is normal. Most people have it. 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 indicated in this book:
The right angle … is always in the direction of greater ease and effortlessness. Note: you are NOT avoiding the job (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.

Be extremely lazy!