What Two World Champions of Public Speaking Would Tell You About Preparing For the International Speech Contest

It’s contest time again and Toastmasters all around the world are preparing for the their club  speech contest.  The gist of the international contest is a 5 to 7 minute speech focused on a universal theme.  Last week, as I was struggling to write my speech, I found some excellent advice for two past world champions – Ed Tate and Darren Lacroix.

1. To deliver a better speech, record as you practice. This advice really hit home for me after I watched a recent advanced manual speech I gave. The speech was okay – I started off that speech looking down at my shoes, I wandered around, and my conclusion meandered as much as I did. Yet I am able to take away these things to work on precisely because I recorded my speech and reviewed it.

2. Speak to Motivate Not Win – Winning is a by product of a great speech, but a great speech comes from the speaker’s desire to motivate or inspire their audience. Both Darren and Ed talk about how they didn’t focus on winning, they focused on sharing their message.  A way to apply this logic is by asking yourself one question that a mentor of mine, Michelle Mras, has told me is to start your speech preparation with is “What do I want my audience to do at end of my speech?”

For more tips from Ed and Darren’s experiences see these links: Ed Tate On SpeakingSherpa and Darren Lacroix on SpeakingSherpa. Both articles are helping me as I prepare for my contest and I hope you help you too.

3 Amazing Things I Learned From Ryan and Chelsea Avery

I had the opportunity to listen to and learn from an incredible speaker –Ryan Avery. Avery was the 2012 World Champion of Public Speaking and in this post I am sharing 4 things I learned while listening to Avery at a recent keynote.
1. Define Your Dream: 8 months prior to his championship win, Avery let the world know . He defined it unquestionably when he posted a youtube video, that he wanted to be the 2012 world champion of public speaking. As I reflect on my own life I am fuzzy on what goals I want to accomplish. The fuzzy approach is like walking through a fog – you know you’re moving, but it’s hard to see where you’re going or if you’re making progress. So the first thing I learned from Ryan is that is so important to clearly define your dreams if you want to achieve them.

2. Improve Your Entourage – The second thing I learned from Avery, was that in our group of supporters, we tend to have a lot of cheerleaders, but not enough experts and coaches. This means we have an overabundance of supportive but inexperienced people (cheerleaders), and a lack of knowledgeable people who have walked the path we where we want to go (experts) and not enough people that have not only walked the path but also have a teacher’s heart (coaches). Avery reached out to Randy Harvey, the 2004 World Champion, for guidance as he moved through contest levels. Havery served in multiple roles – sharing both his expert guidance and becoming a mentor. A personal example is that I recently had my wife start editing my writing (I know – they’re actually readable now ). She is filling an expert role. For my coach, I am reading On Writing by Stephen King, where he shares incredible tips about the writing process. As you pursued your dreams – find experts and coaches in addition to cheerleaders.

3. Accept That The Road to Success is Difficult – The are different levels within the international speech contest – starting within the club. From there, Ryan competed are higher and higher levels, against more and more people. When he had advanced to the International Level*, the contest rules dictate that contestants write an entirely new speech. Ryan lamented – it took him 8 months to write and perfect the speech that got him there, how could he write a winning speech in just 2 months. Ryan did – several times in fact. The version he gave that on the finals stage was the 27th version of his “Trust is a Must” speech. Even if having to write a speech isn’t a part of your dreams, simply accepting that difficulties are part of the process, will be encouraging when you do encounter them.

I hope that you have benefited from Ryan and Chelsea Avery as I have. Both have blogs that I encourage you to check out – http://ryanavery.com and http://thenewwifestyle.com/.

How To Be A Better Listener

Here are some quick tips to instantly be a better listener

1. Practice the “Stop Drop and Listen” Technique
I originally learned this technique from “it’s your ship” – a fantastic read about a navy commander who takes over the worst performing ship in the Navy. He had a commanding officer (a manager) who would stop whatever he was doing when someone came into his office and give that person 100% of his attention. So to practice this powerful communication technique do the following:

STOP what you’re doing
DROP what you think the person is going to say or what your response is
LISTEN and hear what they do say

2. Orient yourself towards that person

This goes a long way towards being able to focus on them and the words they are saying. It communicates very clearly – you are important to me.

Turn towards the person who is speaking

These two are simple but effective ways to be a better listener. I find I have to implement them most with the people I am close to.

Apply them this week and let me know in the comments what the result was.

Crossing the Finishline to Success

Two weekends ago I rode 16 miles in local bike ride. It has been years since I rode that far and in the weeks leading up to the ride, I didn’t log anything longer than 12.5 miles. Yet on that Saturday, I realized some extraordinary things when you’re almost at success.
1. Be Bob the Builder Not The Little Engine that Could
a. Bob the builder and his team of tools have a mantra – Yes we can! Contrast this with The Little Engine that Could – I think I can. Both of these mantras are positive, but Bob the Builder has that necessary certainty you need when you’re 6 miles into 15 mile ride and you’re exhausted.

2. Breakdown the remaining work into smaller units
a. As I rolled through mile 13, there were these white letters on the faded black asphalt: 1.5 mile. That meant I had a mile and half to go. In that moment, it seemed as if that remaining distance might as well be 100 miles. Hadn’t I ridden enough? Maybe I’ll ask one of the volunteers for the shuttle back to the finish? I banished these thoughts and instead became fixated on a taller, bright yellow sunflower that stood like a beacon next to the course. It was 100 ft ahead of me. Get to the sunflower Get to the sunflower I thought. I rode past it and then saw a green electrical box 200 ft ahead. My legs churned – still tired, but the desire to quit faded away as that box got closer and closer. I rode past that. I continued to do this pattern for the rest of the course and it made that tough final stretch easier.

3. Accept that it’s tough
a. Throughout the ride , the small but persistent whiner chatter came out. This is so hard – my legs hurt – I can’t do this.
b. Near the end of the ride – maybe between mile 12 and 13, I came up to hill. This hill wasn’t that steep, but as I started my climb it felt as if I had concrete cinders attached to them. Man this sucks, I thought. Yep it does, but that’s where I am was my next thought.

Accepting where we are – a tough situation – allows us to focus our mental energy on getting through the current challenge or problem or crisis.

So there you have it – 3 simple but effective ways to go from almost done to finished! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

How do i determine what’s important in life?

Here is a simple but effective exercise to figure out what truly matters in your life. It’s a riff on the 20/10 exercise promoted by Brian Tracy. My version is shorter and doesn’t assume you’ve won 10 million dollars. (I know, less time and less magical money – what a bummer).

Grab a piece of paper, find a quiet place, and then begin. Here’s how it works:

Imagine you have been given a diagnosis that you only have 5 years to live. That means that 5 years from today, you will die. What are those things you want to accomplish given this absolute constraint? Who are those people that you want to meet, be with, or relationships that you want to spend time on?

When I first did this exercise, some ideas came into my mind right away – write a book and to see the ocean. I was astonished at the clarity and gravity of these ideas. I needed no NEEDED to do these things.

However, I was also a little frustrated that there weren’t more bucket list items that popped in my head right away. I know I want to do more than 2 things in my life. Then I did the exercise a few days later and those someday / maybe things were clearer – take a friend to Italy and adopt a child.

Now it’s your turn: take 5 minutes today to think about what truly matters. Let me know in the comments below what you found or if you have questions.

Are you boiling the ocean?

As I started this year, the events of the prior year had been catalysts for change in my life. Well as you will see, they were the tinder to start to change my life, after all, change and success are still in progress.

Late fall of 14, my beloved grandmother suffered a stroke. I had intended to call her the weekend prior, but got busy. As I waited for the days after her stroke, waiting to find out if I would get a chance to call her again, I began to reflect on my life in a deep and thoughtful manner, more so than I ever have before.

I was 27 – I had many things – a wonderful family, a few close friends, a great job, nice house. But I had little happiness, I had no joy. So I started to read books on goal achievement and became enamored with the subject of successful living ( a good place to start is John Izzo in the references section). I read a book by Brian Tracy that suggested writing goals out in the present tense, as if you have achieved them. I wrote out 12 goals that I wanted to achieve within a year. I started with reckless abandon on all of them, excited at the possibility of being a better / changed / successful person.

Spring sprang by, summer too, and now fall is approaching faster than a runaway truck. Of those goals I’ve completed – 1. Why so few? Why wasn’t I more successful?

Once again, I return to that strange place – reflection. I tried to accomplish too much at the same time and ended up accomplishing very little. I was, as a friend recently said so eloquently put it, trying to boil the ocean. So my new plan is simple – focus on 1 or 2 dreams at a time.

If you read this, I hope you take away something simple – reflect on your life, be bold in your dreams, but pursue them intelligently.

Don’t boil the ocean – start with a small part of it.