My Top 5 Books on Public Speaking

If you have had any chance of public speaking, you know it can be intimidating or empowering. That is depending on what stage of your learning experience you are at. I am a student of public speaking and I have been sharing what I know on my YouTube channel: 365 Days of Public Speaking (https://www.youtube.com/user/365dps). A lot of the things I know, I learned from books. In this post I share my top 5 books on public speaking. It is a great place to start if you need help or have targetted questions on how to improve your public speaking skills.

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Steve Gallo is the author of the pitch enthusiasts’ ‘bible’, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, and his Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds boils down to nine secrets of effective presentation, gleaned from his analysis of more than 500 TED Talks. Drawing on the research of psychologists and other experts in communications, Gallo also offers pearls of wisdom extracted from interviews with some of the most notable TED Talks speakers. This has broad appeal, bound to be read as enthuastically by a fan of TED Talks as it will be digested by public speakers.

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The CEO of TED Chris Anderson has been at the head of the organisation since the early 2000s, and so is one of the ultimate authoritative sources on public speaking in the modern era. He has an intuitive understanding of how the best speakers and presentations can get the audience onside, stir excitement and share knowledge, both within the presentation room and much farther beyond. For TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, Anderson draws on a huge range of material drawn from working with the best TED speakers in a bid to help you become a master of impactful presentation.

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Another entry by Steven A. Beebe and Susan J. Beebe, A Concise Public Speaking Handbook (4th Edition) is a concise primer in preparing, researching and delivering a speech underpinned by the Beebes’ signature audience-focused strategy, which shows the speaker how to consider and analyse the audience at every step of the process. As a comprehensive round-up of the core presentation skills, this is an excellent resource for public speaking in any walk of life.

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This is one of the definitive and classic public speaking reference works. Self-help colossus Carnegie is no longer with us, of course, but his lessons for effective public speakers are timeless. Unsurprisingly, The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking focuses on boosting your confidence, as well as using props and exercises to develop your speech. Sure, it’s old school, but in this case, there is no school like the old school.

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The sub-title of Berkun’s Confessions of a Public Speaker shows that this is a book for entrepreneurs who are ready to “tell, sell and compel”. There is some great information in here for those who want to blitz their pitches with maximum engagement presentations. This is a great book, easy to understand, and you will find that the skills it imparts will stand you in good stead in life as well as in business.

Lessons From Losing the Area G4 Humorous Speech Contest

Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. Learning I did, after losing the Area G4 Humorous Speech Contest last Saturday 10/11 in Irvine, California. The contest is part of the Annual Humorous Speech Contest with Toastmasters International, and I was up against contestant from 3 other clubs. I did not completely lose (took runner up), but nobody remember who came second place. lionnel-at-contest-with-trophy

All we remember most of the time is who came first place, and even first place is soon forgotten, if he or she does not become the ultimate winner at the Toastmasters District or International level of the competition. Buzz Aldrin was the second man to set foot on the moon. You probably have never heard of him. Who is Lance Armstrong? … That’s right, the first human being to step on the planet moon. Need I say more?

There are three key lessons I took away from the speech contest experience:

  • Never Over-prepare For a Speech

I was very uncomfortable in the time leading to the speech because I am not know to have a lot of humor when I speak. Therefore, I exercised a lot of restrain in order for me not to prepare too much for the performance.

My friend and public speaking coach Quinn was more excited about me going there to win than I was. I knew my main stories, my punch lines, and my delivery turned out way better than ever before in front of other audiences. Next time you have an “important” speech to deliver, don’t over-prepare. Practice a few times in front of a live audience where the stakes are lower, that should be enough.

  • Have Familiar Faces in The Audience

Even though I have met and interacted with many people in my District, the group of about 40 people I was speaking in front of had only about 5 to 7 familiar faces. Two of them had already heard my speech. Having them in the audience provided me with a good emotional support. Yes, even champions need emotional support.

Whenever you have to speak to an unfamiliar group of people, arrange for at least one familiar face to be in the audience. That really helps.

  • When in Doubt Go With Your Guts

Because I was speaking at the contest as a representative of my club OC Toasters, I received a ton of feedback and suggestion for improvement. It felt overwhelming and I did not know what to leave and what to take out. It is difficult to incorporate everybody’s opinion about a speech to improve it.

When you don’t know what to leave out and what to take from feedback you receive, take nothing and go with your original message. That way regardless of how things turn out, you can be proud you followed your guts.

Competent Communicator Manual Projects Guide

Having being a member of Toastmasters International since June 2012, I gladly recommend its educational program to anyone interested. From my time as an active member of the organization, I have found that the best way to take full advantage of the program is to work it. It is just like a gym membership. If you pay every month for access to the gym and all its resources but you don’t use them, it is your loss.  Lionnel-Yamentou-at-OC-Toasters-Group-Picture

Of course there will be times or situations where you cannot use your local gym because you are out of town or there are changes in your schedules. Toastmasters International doesn’t let you get away with any excuse. There are clubs in almost every country on the planet, and if there are no clubs in your country, you will be fully assisted in creating the first.

The educational program helps members improve their public speaking (Communication Track) and leadership skills (Leadership Track). As part of the Communication Track and as a new member, you receive a manual called the Competent Communicator manual.The Competent Communicator manual contains a series of 10 speech projects. Those projects progressively build on various basic public speaking skills that you are guaranteed to gain if you spend enough quality time preparing for them.

As part of my YouTube channel 365 Days of Public Speaking, I created a guide for each one of the projects in the manual. This guide in the form of a 10 videos series will inform non-Toastmasters and will provide Toastmasters with advice on how to make the most of each project. Enjoy! 🙂

Lessons From a Future World Champion of Public Speaking

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Cindy and David (husband) in Malaysia after her contest win.

“I am the Future World Champion of Public Speaking.” That is how she introduced herself to someone she was meeting the first time. Recently returned from the World Championship of Public Speaking where she took part in the yearly competition. The competition is part of the annual Toastmasters International conference, and more than 30,000 members compete annually at the club level. This year, Cindy took a runner-up trophy from the group of 10 contestants she was in during the semi-finals, against 9 other members. Well done Cindy!

At the Orange County Speakers Bureau, Cindy shared some of the lessons she learned from her participation in the contest. These lessons are most relevant to anyone who takes part in the international contest with the hope of winning the ultimate title. Nonetheless every student of public speaking will find these lessons useful. Here are key points from the learning experience with her:

  • Be Determined to Win

Being determined to win means giving it all you have and resolving never to give up, even before you begin. She gave the examples of Lance Miller who took part in the contest with the intention and hope of winning for 8 consecutive years, and finally did the 9th year, in 2005. If you want to one day be the World Champion of Public Speaking, resolve to stick to it until you win, no matter how many years it might take you.

  • Write a 5 Minutes Speech

On the stage of the International Championship, everything you do is magnified and has the potential to expand based on the audience’s reaction and other elements you might not have anticipated.

Preparing a 5 minutes speech gives you the chance to focus on communicating one core idea and enunciate your words well for the multicultural audience. In Cindy’s own words, prepare a 5 minutes speech and let it breathe.

  • Have a Laser Focused Message

Cindy gave the example of a speaker she heard very good feedback about, but when she inquired about what his message was, she could not get an answer. By the time you close your speech, every single member should have your core message in mind. Make your key message so clear that there is no way two people could have two different impressions from what you shared.

Lionnel with Cindy at the OC Speakers Bureau, September 2014.

Lionnel with Cindy at the OC Speakers Bureau, September 2014.

Three great questions she used to receive feedback from audiences during her practice: 1) What was my message? 2) What did you like? 3) What did you find most distracting? Keep improving your speech until close to 100% of your audience tells you that the message they received is the one you delivered.

  • Make the Audience Laugh

Most important within the first  and last 30 seconds of your speech. Cindy shared that for her next participation, she definitely will add more humor to her speeches. Leaving your audience members feeling good through laughter will increase your chances of taking home the trophy. Cindy gave the example of all the winners for the past few years leaving the audience laughing out loud. That definitely helps.

Whether your dream is to win the World Championship of Public Speaking or not, I believe the lessons above are very valuable for improving your speeches and presentations. Cindy will probably be sharing her experience during the LACE event in January next year. As for the next World Championship contest, it is next year in Las Vegas, Nevada and you bet I will be on that stage, with Cindy.

Thank You Cindy!

Five Essential Tools to Improve Your Public Speaking

As 2014 starts, improving your public speaking skills must be one of your priority. I remember reading in a book that professionals in business make on average 30% more than their peers who cannot communicate their messages and ideas effectively. In other words, you can increase your income by about a third if you consciously work on communicating better in public, as well as in private. toolbox-for-public-speakers

Throughout the past 12 months, I put myself under a strict speaking schedule. In this post I share a few of the tools and strategies I used to improve my public speaking. To give you a sense of the improvement I am talking about, you can refer to this video which was recorded in December 2012, this is the (BEFORE) video. And this second (AFTER) video was recorded in November 2013, speaking on the same platform, to the same group of people, the Orange County Speakers Bureau.

Here is the list of the five essential tools and strategies you can use to improve your public speaking:

  • Get Mentors (NOT coaches)

This is indispensable. In your current social circles (or outside), find someone who is very good at public speaking and schedule a meeting to learn from him or her what it takes to become as good, if not better. From my personal experience, most people will gladly share the process they went through to become effective public speakers and communicators. Write down a list of 5 people you have (or can easily get) access to who are very good or excellent public speakers. Call or email them to schedule a meeting for the first quarter of the year based on their availability, not yours.

A mentor who likes you and genuinely wants you to succeed will be much more valuable than a coach. Only if you cannot get access to a mentor who would work with you should you seek the help of a coach. I personally have three mentors who can help me with any question on how to communicate better, especially in public.

  • Read Books

If you read twelve books in a year (one every month) about public speaking, you will have enough information to be able to coach anyone on how to effectively speak in public. It is less daunting than it sounds. It can be achieved by reading 2 to 6 pages every day. The best time to read being the morning, within the first two hours. It helps to wake up early and include reading in your daily activities.

I personally have read many books on public speaking and recommend these two: 1) Speaking as a Professional by Dan Grandstaff and 2) Money Talks by by Alan Weiss. If you are totally new to public speaking and need a book for beginners, I would recommend the book The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking by Dale Carnegie.

  • Get Stage Time

You can only improve your golf swing by swinging. You can only improve your cooking by cooking, you can only improve your public speaking by speaking. The reason why most people don’t speak in public, it is because they want to get it right the first time. It does not work like that. It takes a lot of practice with the right information to create knowledge that will make you speak like a pro. The 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking with Toastmasters International is always keen on this when he shares his experiences from the stage, the platform. Get as much stage time as you can.

Volunteer to speak in public to groups of varying size and in different settings (work, church, home, bar, …) Your objective is to have as many opportunities as possible to speak in public. What I personally did was to become a member of 3 different Toastmasters clubs and volunteered to serve as an Area Governor, lead for 5 different clubs. That enabled me to create more than enough opportunities to speak as I needed. Do the same, or better. Are you not a member of Toastmasters International yet? Find and join a club near your house. Local schools and colleges are also looking for speakers who have a relevant message to share. Network and get as much stage time as you can.

  • Get a Video Camera

This will be one of your most valuable expenses as you are committed to working on developing yourself as a public speaker. Get a digital video camera and a tripod. A budget of USD $300 can cover both expenses and get your a camera of good quality. My camera and tripod are two of my best tools as a speaker. The ability to look back on a speech and learn from what went well and what did not go so well is priceless. It is like going back in time to conduct a forensic analysis of your speech. If one of your mentors would be available, have him or her work with you to review your progress at least once a quarter. You can get a new digital video camera online. Get the best most affordable deal you can find.

  • Get a Voice Recorder

There will be situation where you do not have the opportunity to setup your video camera for recording, but in order to capture what you say, a voice recorder will help. I use a voice recorder which I drop into the front pocket of my jacket or shirt every time I am on stage. A decent voice recorder will cost you less than USD $50 and you will be able to take it everywhere you go. It is very discrete and you can also use it to practice improving the sound of your voice.

Because one can always better his or her best, I plan on using the elements listed above to continue improving my public speaking skills. Which one of the list items is your favorite, and why?

Day 19 of 21: 100 words per day for 21 days. 987 words.