Speak with Confidence: How to Speak with Passion

Speak with Passion

Mr. Murdoch eyes shined when he talked about the periodic table of the elements.

Clearly, my high school chemistry teacher was passionate about chemistry, and even more passionate that his students understand the subject.  Mr. Murdoch’s zeal for science was so contagious that I not only went on to take two more classes from him before I graduated from high school but I also decided to major in chemical engineering.  That major only lasted a semester, but Mr. Murdoch’s passion for science inspired my life-long interest in the subject, and made me want to bring science to life when I homeschooled my children.

Mr. Murdoch didn’t just speak with knowledge, he spoke with passion.  Most of his students actually cared about learning chemistry.

Speak with knowledge and people may learn.

Speak with passion and people will care.

And if you speak with passion, the clarity of your content will shine like a beacon, guiding your audience.

Content may be king with meeting planners, especially with a results-minded orientation. But, nobody wants dry, lifeless content.  Nobody.  Including you, I hope.

Now, you might have to deliver content that, on the surface, you are not so passionate about (for example, if your topic is prescribed), but there is a way to speak with passion even so.

When I first started out as a professional speaker, I gave high school classroom workshops for a local college, as a lead generator for the college.  There were eight prescribed topics from budgeting to sexual harassment. They even had scripts for each of the presentations.  I quickly learned, after memorizing the first 45-minute script, that in order to be passionate about a topic I had to do four things:

1. Drop the script.  Sure, I had to cover the content points promised, but I could support that content with my own examples and stories, and by dropping the script, I could better engage.

 2. Use relevant, personal stories.  Stories connect with emotions.  Passion is about emotion. For example, for the workshop presentation about budgeting, I was able to tell the story of my mother’s lack of planning and how she went from a beautiful, highly intelligent, highly educated woman to dying in poverty.  I had pictures and props to make the story even more memorable.

 3. Be authentic.  Basically, this means to honestly expose who you are, minor warts and all.  Nobody wants to feel that you have put yourself above them.   I remember once when I spoke at an alternative high school.  I looked up at a sea of young, tough, brown faces.  I suspected they were forming judgments about me based on appearance, and brought it out into the open (appropriate for my talk on first impressions):  “You might be looking at me, and thinking, ‘that dressed up, rich white woman doesn’t know my life.’ And you’re right, I don’t.  But are you judging me too quickly?  What if I told you that the clothes I’m wearing I bought at the Salvation Army . . .”

4. Care about the audience.  It’s not enough to have passion for the topic.  You have to have passion for your audience.  If you don’t already have a passion for your audience, you probably need to find out more about them.  Interview them, ask questions.  What are their challenges as related to your topic.  Become excited about how you might help them.

In his 2008 TED talk, “The Transformative Power of Classical Music,” conductor Benjamin Zander’s infectious passion for classical music illustrates the above concepts and so much more.  It’s one of my favorite TED talks, and the only one I’ve watched more than once.  Watch how he engages with the audience with his passion, humor and talent!  Video

Plant seeds of passion.  Harvest change.


10 Ways to Be a More Confident Speaker

Roaring lion“We met with someone before you . . . it didn’t go well,” said my prospective client, the president of a small digital marketing firm that was looking to hire me to do some presentation skills workshops for their employees. Our meeting had gone quite well.  We had dates on the calendar for the workshops.

My curiosity was piqued.

“I don’t need to know a name, but what didn’t go well?” I asked.

“She wasn’t very confident.”

“Well,” I said, “when you want your employees to speak more confidently, I can understand your concern!”

The other presentation coach probably was knowledgeable, maybe even more knowledgeable than I.  Maybe she had advanced degrees in communication (I have a bachelor of science in engineering).

But she didn’t have the critically important skill of confidence.

Mark Twain may have oversold confidence when he said, “To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.”

But, what I think he meant by ignorance was ignorance of all the possible negatives.  If your knowledge is holding you back, keeping you from taking bold steps because you dwell on your shortcomings, then here’s to ignorance!

I remember feeling that way when I self-published my first book.  On the day after Labor Day in 2010, I had a short manuscript that I wanted to self-publish.  I hadn’t a clue how to self-publish, so I googled “how to self-publish.”  To make a long story short, I had a published book in my hands in fewer than 2 months.  After I published that book, I thought it might be a good idea to read a book on self-publishing, so I got a few from the library to look at.  If I had looked at them (literally, just looked at them), that might have caused me pause.  They were thick books, several hundred pages long.  I might have gained just enough knowledge to give up before I even started.

The same thing can happen with speaking.  Sometimes we can hold ourselves back because our knowledge or negative self-talk erodes confidence.

So, how can you speak with greater confidence?  Here are 10 ways–a preview of the next 10 posts!  I will be doing a separate post on each one:

1.  Be passionate. Speak on something you are passionate about.  If you don’t care, why should anyone else?  Also, if you are passionate about something, people are much more forgiving of “imperfections” in speaking.  And, frankly, you will probably care less about being perfect.  If I had to pick only one thing to improve confidence in speaking, it would be this.

2. Focus on the Audience. A lack of confidence often means that you are thinking about yourself.  Yep, you are being self-centered.  Instead, be so excited about your message that you consider it a gift to your audience.

3. Know your material.  Confidence may be more important than knowledge, but knowing your material will give you credibility and even more confidence!  Plus, if you are passionate about a subject, you probably already know a lot!  You don’t have to SAY everything you know.  It’s handy to know more in case you need to speak longer or forget a point.

4. Use notes—sparingly.  Jot down brief, keyword notes (or little pictures) to jog your memory to keep yourself on track (a short speech may not need notes).  DO NOT SPEAK FROM WORD-FOR-WORD NOTES.  Confident speakers make eye contact and project their voices, both of which are hard to do if you read a speech.

5. Practice AND rehearse.  Practice alone to work out the flow, but also rehearse as much as possible in front of people.  Toastmasters clubs can give you the opportunity to speak in front of a friendly, supportive audience.

6. Stand and move with power and purpose.  Stand tall.  Don’t sway, cross your legs, or pace.  Set your feet about shoulder width apart (one foot slightly in front of the other for stability) and then only move from that position on purpose (for example, on a big stage you might want to walk to the other parts of the stage to get closer to different parts of the audience).  Gesture naturally, leaving your arms at your side when not gesturing.

7. Smile. Give your audience the “I really like you smile” before you even start, and then beam your smile during appropriate parts.  Smiling at your audience will relax them and you! (Be culturally sensitive with the amount of smiling you do.  Some cultures think Americans smile too much).

8. Project your voice.  As I tell my high school speech class students, “speak from your belly button.”  You want to speak conversationally, but likely louder (unless using a microphone). Speaking more loudly will make you feel more confident and make it easier for your audience to hear you.

9. Pace with pauses.  Most speakers, especially when they are nervous speak too quickly, rushing from thought to thought, hoping to just make it to the end.  Pause before and after important points.

10.  Plan for Worst-Case Scenarios. Imagine the worst things that might logically happen and decide how you will deal with them if they do happen.  Odds are you won’t die.

Confidence is a skill that can be learned.  Confidence must also be practiced.  Do you have some confidence-building techniques for public speaking?

Next week, more on “be passionate.”

Want my best tips on public speaking?  Get my book Cat Got Your Tongue?: Powerful Public Speaking Skills & Presentation Strategies for Confident Communication or, How to Create the Purrfect Speech


My Purse Stand Up Comedy

Can you find humor in your everyday possessions?  Last week I shared my Stand-Up comedy routine about my iPhone.  This week, it’s my purse.  This stand up routine was performed in January at Humor Mill Toastmasters‘ Annual Stand Up Comedy Night.
Below are the video (4:58) and a rough transcript.  I wrote it out and then practiced from keywords, so it’s not word-for-word, and in-fact there are a few ad-lib lines, like when I compare shopping for a purse to dating  “It’s like finding the right man.  Only more fun!”  I hadn’t thought of saying “only more fun!” until that very moment, and clearly that was the funny line.  This just goes to show the value in recording your speeches.  Sometimes you say things that are better than what you planned!  By recording them (and the audience reaction), you can see what works, and what doesn’t.
By the way, my purse and I have gone our separate ways.  It was “until death do us part.”  I guess you could call it pursicide.  I killed her by throwing her in the trash.  I now have a more attractive “trophy wife” kind of purse.

Imagine a typical Saturday at the mall.  You’re a guy and you’re shopping with your wife or girlfriend.  And she asks you to hold her purse.

How do you react?

You have a couple of options.  X can you come up and help me demonstrate?  I promise you won’t have to hold my purse for long.

The first option is to hold the purse with confidence, like it’s the most natural thing in the world.  Here you go.

Very good.  Now, there’s only one problem with this option.  You look really comfortable, like it’s the most natural thing in the world.  Is that really what you want people to think?

No. So, your other option is to hold it out away from your body, touching it only with your finger tips and a slightly fearful, disgusted look.  Like you’re holding a dirty diaper.  Like it might leak on you.  That’s right.  I’ll take it back now. Thank you, X.  You can sit down.

You must have strong fingers, X.  My purse is really big and heavy.  My purse is so big it could have its own zip code.

My purse is so big that it should be a registered weapon.  Really, I almost made X die of embarrassment.

Have you ever noticed that as women get older, their purses get bigger?

I’m 50 now, imagine when I’m 100—just to hold my purse, I’ll need two husbands.

When I was a teenager I didn’t have a purse, I had a wallet.  And my mother had this ridiculously large purse.  I vowed I would never turn into my mother.

Well, I have, I’m a true “bag lady.”

Although I can’t always find what I’m looking for, my purse can hold just about anything:   keyboard for my iPad, grooming accessories . . . small children.

No really!  Here’s a picture of one of my granddaughters at 3 months.  In .  .  . my purse.

She seemed quite content . . . I’ll have to take her purse shopping someday.

Because my own daughter, who only carries a wallet, won’t go purse shopping with me.  She won’t even walk into Kohl’s with me, for fear that I might veer off toward the purse department.

I can’t help it that it takes me hours to find just the right purse.  It’s like finding the right man.  If more women spent as much time looking for the right man as they do the right purse, we’d have fewer divorces.

I’m a serial monogamist when it comes to purses.  I’m not one of those women who have a purse for every outfit. Out of curiosity—let’s see a show of hands, ladies, if you have more than one purse . . . you know what you are?  You’re a . . . purse polygamist. I’m a one-purse woman.  Oh, sure, I have a cheesy little clutch bag for super fancy events—but, I feel so guilty when I go out with the little tart.  My faithful purse may be a little worn—the patent leather is cracking on the straps and she’s missing a few rivets–some might even call her an “old bag.”

But, It’s till death-do-us-part.  Or, until Kohl’s has a really good sale.

iPhone Stand-Up Comedy

It’s summer, so let’s have some fun this week and next with Stand Up Comedy (If I can do it, so can you!).  This week and next, I will share my stand up comedy routines that I did at the last two Annual Humor Mill Toastmasters Stand Up Comedy Nights (11/2011 and 01/2013).

Below is the video (5:40) and a rough transcript.  It’s a rough transcript because I didn’t write out everything and after I wrote it, I practiced it in an ad-lib way.  In fact the line “and I won’t talk about vibrate mode” was not one I had planned nor had I practiced–it was inspired by the moment. You will note that the routine has been somewhat customized to a Toastmasters audience, and that I actually mention some audience members.  Oh, since the video, I’ve upgraded iPhones twice.  Now I have an iPhone 5.  I love it even more. :)

My New Love iPhone Humorous video

Rough Transcript Draft:

Do you know what the best time is to tell your spouse some really bad news?  In a roomful of Toastmasters!
Sorry honey, but I have a new love.

  • He never forgets a birthday.
  • I can talk to him all I want and he never interrupts
  • He’s the last thing I look at before I go to bed and the first think I look at when I wake up.

Yes, I’m talking about my new iPhone. Just got it last week
Before my iPhone, my idea of a fun evening was to go out to a movie with friends.  Now, I don’t need to leave the house.  I have streaming Netflix and 551 Facebook Friends.   And unlike my husband, in the middle of a movie, my iPhone never says “I was just resting my eyes.”

And all the applications—there are a bazillion applications. (demonstrate)
Ever want to liven up a boring meeting? ifart

Ever the designated driver? ibeer

Need a quick Halloween costume?  Mouthoff

Ever wonder what you’d look like with a few extra pounds?  Fatbooth

This picture is my new diet plan—I stare at it . . . until I lose my appetite.
Sometimes I look at this picture and a little voice inside my head tells me . . .  “go for it.”

Ever tell a joke and nobody laughed? Laughs

Ever wonder what other people’s fantasies are?  This is a cool app—FantasizeME.  Just take a picture of the person and their fantasy self is displayed.  Do you want to see the one I took of Faye?  This is her inner desire to be a Vampire Princess in the next Twilight Movie.

I can’t stop myself. All these applications.

I’m beginning to think I’m an app-a-holoic.  I need a 12-step program. Wait,  I think there’s an app for that! 


10 Ways Professional Speaking is Different than Toastmasters

microphone with audienceHave you thought about becoming a professional speaker–speaking as a way to share your expertise, or your inspiration?  

Perhaps you are a Toastmaster and have wondered how being a professional speaker is different than being a Toastmaster.  I’ve been a Toastmaster for ten years, and a professional speaker for two.

Here are the top 10 differences I’ve noticed:

1. Money. Professional speakers are paid to speak (duh!).  They are contractually obligated to provide value.

2. Business.  Professional speakers run a business related to their speaking.  Most professional speakers don’t have much staff, so they have to develop content, distribute content (e.g.,website, books, articles, blogs, video, social media), market and sell, in addition to preparing for presentations.  And, unless you are a well-known expert in a niche topic, or a celebrity, getting speaking engagements is not easy.  Speakers bureaus won’t pay much attention to you when you are just starting out, so you’ve got to get your own gigs.

3. Focus.  Professional speakers have to focus on the client/audience, while Toastmasters focus on self-improvement.  Every Toastmasters club shares the same mission: We provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.  

A minor related difference relates to the practice of saying “thank you” at the end of the speech.  I’ve heard Toastmasters say that you shouldn’t say “thank you” at the end of your speech (“Your audience should thank you”).  However, most professional speakers do say “thank you” or offer some other words of appreciation to their audiences.

4. Audience.  Toastmasters usually give speeches that could be given to general audiences.  Professional speakers usually give presentations that are for a specific audience (or they tailor/customize a presentation for a specific audience).  Customizing requires a significant amount of research (online research, client interviews, site visits and more).

5. Length of presentations.  In Toastmasters, most speeches are 5-7 minutes long.  In professional speaking, keynotes are often an hour and workshops/seminars can be longer.  However, there is a trend toward shorter speeches (TED talks are typically 18 minutes long).

6. Memorization.  The pinnacle of speaking for Toastmasters is the annual World Championship of Public Speaking, in which contestants give 5-7 minute memorized speeches (often with carefully practiced gestures and pauses). Most professional speakers do not completely memorize a presentation word-for-word.

7. Style.  In part because of the focus on short speeches and memorized speech contest speeches, some Toastmasters speeches come across as more of a performance and less of a conversation.  Most professional speakers speak in a conversational style, adjusted for audience size.  Professional speakers often give more interactive speeches as well, and they may use more technology (audio, video, PowerPoint, interactive technology, etc.). Professional speakers may also use more filler words (ah, uh, you know) than seasoned Toastmasters, due to Toastmasters focus on elimination of filler words.

8. Repetition of Material.  Toastmaster projects are designed to work on skills, for which most people prepare a new speech for every club speech.  Professional speakers often give variations on the same speech, which gives them a greater opportunity to hone their content and delivery based on what works with various audiences.  However, Toastmaster speech contests provide a similar opportunity for Toastmasters, when speakers progress to higher levels of competition using the same speech.

9. Audience size.  Most Toastmaster speeches are to audiences of fewer than 25 people (club speeches).  Professional speakers often speak to much larger audiences, and to audiences of varying sizes in many different venues, which means that professional speakers must learn to adapt their presentation style to the audience size (e.g., bigger audience, somewhat bigger gestures).

10. Audience attitude. Toastmaster audiences are much nicer than most audiences.  Toastmasters are in a club setting to help each other improve and gain confidence as they practice public speaking and leadership skills.  Peers evaluate each other.  Audiences of professional speakers are more critical, expecting high-quality content, well delivered. All the time.

If you want to become a professional speaker, Toastmasters offers a great way to gain some skill and confidence.  But, you need to speak outside of Toastmasters, too!

If you are both a professional speaker and a Toastmaster, I’d love to hear what you agree with, disagree with, or would like to add!

Thinking about becoming a professional speaker?
Here are some resources . . .

1.  Check out SpeakerBiz, The School for Speaker Success!

2. Speakers Academy of the National Speakers Association-MN Chapter
info sessions 8/15 and 9/5

3.  Toastmasters Accredited Speaker Program

4. Visit PowerTalk Toastmasters, the club for professional and aspiring professional speakers.

5. Read a book.  One of my Favorites:  World Class Speaking.  And of course, my own book (on speaking skills, not so much on the business side): Cat Got Your Tongue?

6. Create a Keynote Speech in a Day Class (limited to 3 people.  For $20 savings, use promo code:  TOASTMASTER)