Tag: How to become better as a speaker

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Manoj Vasudevan is one of the most humble great speaker I know.

And he just became World Champion of Public Speaking. ((https://twitter.com/Toastmasters/status/901315034357223424))

I am so happy for him and it is so well deserved.
(Toastmasters have a staggering 352,000 members so to be voted the best is an almost unimaginable feat.)

I have learnt a lot about speaking from Manoj and am happy and proud to be able to call him a friend. (We both live in Singapore).

Manoj and I did a session together just a couple of months ago at APSS (AsiaSpeakers.org) on: “How to craft a keynote”.

In today’s post I want to share some of the things that Manoj has thought me about speaking.

1) Craft your speech.
Manoj approach to speaking is very much that of a craftsman, he works and works and works on his stories until they are the best they can be.

Many speakers are happy when they have a good story and then just stick to telling that story, instead of seeing how it can always become better, always be told better.

That is why Manoj is the world champion and not them…

2) Keep your stories simple.

Simple doesn’t mean bad. Simple means good. All great speeches have simple, easy to understand messages. Manoj is an expert in delivering a speech that has a simple message that people take to their hearts.

Many speakers try to make things complicated, complex or difficult. It’s like if they think that making things harder to understand makes the speaker look like an expert. It doesn’t it makes the speaker look like a fool.

Manoj understands that the key to an audiences heart is to deliver a speech with a simple, but profound, message.

That is why Manoj is the world champion and not them…

3) Be yourself and open yourself up to the audience.

Manoj has this ability to tell personal stories in a way that makes the audience instantly like him. They are full of humour, (often of the self deprecating kind), full of warmth and full of heart.

Many speakers seems to think that they need to communicte some kind of “guru”, “rockstar”, “celebrity” status in order to gain respect. You do not. In todays world people actually are no so impressed with that kind of behaviour anymore. People want to listen to real people.

That is why Manoj is the world champion and not them…

I could go on forever, but I will stop at 3 examples, because Manoj is also a master of following the rhetorical rules of speaking and storytelling (where one of the rules is to always give examples in threes), so to show that I have learnt and listen to him I will keep my list to three too… 😉

If you ever get a chance to listen to Manoj speak I urge you to learn from him.

Congratulations to the newest world champion of public speaking, my friend and fellow public speaking colleague Manoj Vasudevan!


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How much information should you give about a story when you are telling it?

I recently did a speech where I was speaking right after Michael JR, an American stand-comedian with a very high likability factor. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0C7L5FEVgjA)

After he had done his speech I went up and delivered mine.

And when I was done we met behind the stage.

I congratulated him on his performance and he congratulated me on mine.

But I wanted more than just nice words to one and other, I wanted to learn from a master. So I asked: “As a comedian, can you give me some advice that I can use as a speaker?”

(I always think that the advice from comedians are the most valuable, even more valuable than from other speakers, since stand-up is one of the hardest forms of storytelling there is. To make another person laugh is serious stuff.)

Michael JR was kind enough to give me this advice:

He said: “I like how you tell your stories and how you include just enough information in them”.

I had never even thought about that aspect of storytelling so thanked him and asked him to elaborate.

He said: “When you tell a story you have to give just enough details so that the audience joins you in your story.

And then he gave an example: “Let’s say you start telling a story where about a car and you say: “I had this car..” then the audience is seeing a car in their mind, but it is not your car, it’s their car.

If you instead say: “I once had this blue car”, the audience is getting closer to “your car”.

If you say: “I once had this old, blue, Corvette” the audience now sees “your car” instead of a random blue car in their head.

That is what you want.

You want them in your story. You want them to see your car, not just a car.

But if you say: “I once had a old, blue, 1969 Corvette convertible with licence plate XTG 578 and Michelin tires that I had bought from uncle Tom, who was born in Paris.” the audience is getting a very good picture of our car. The only problem is that the car is not the important thing, the story is. Or more to the point, the message of the story is.

So all the time you spend adding details to your story that doesn’t have to be in the story you are stealing attention from the message.

Tell as much you have to, but not more.

Move them into your story, and as soon as they are there: move on.


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“Great job, you really connected well with the audience!”

That was the quote from the client who had booked me today. Good to hear of course as a speaker, but how do you create good connections with the audience?

As a speaker I actually often get the feedback that I was “good at connecting with the audience”, and it is usually said with the tone of “I wish more speakers would do it too.”

So how do you connect with the audience, especially when speaking to larger groups?

Let me start by saying that “connecting with the audience” doesn’t necessarily mean having the audience be highly active (by standing up, high-five-ing their neighbour or things like that.)

But it does mean delivering a speech where the audience feel they are part of the presentation.

There are many different ways of doing it, but today I will talk about one: Eye contact.

If you are able to get eye contact with a few people during your speech that human connection which that creates builds a connection to the whole group.

So look for a few happy and positive persons in the audience (not to far away and not too close to the stage) and establish eye contact with them.

The problem that some speakers do when it comes to eye contact is that they use the connection that is established to try to get energy from the other person.

It can be done by:

a) Speaker looking for validation. (Saying with their eyes: “please like what I am saying, please support me.”)


b) Speaker trying to convince. (Asking with their eyes: “you agree with what I am saying right?”)

But the purpose of establishing eye contact is not to help you as a speaker, or to give you energy. The purpose of establishing eye contact is to make the person you are connecting with feel like you are listening to them.

With your eyes say: “Hello, my friend, so happy you are here. What can you teach me? Who are you? What do you want to know? Tell me what you want.”

Establishing eye contact is not about “I-contact” or “you-contact” – it’s about “them contact”.

It’s about connecting to the audience by connecting with a few of them.

It’s about listening with your eyes – not talking with your eyes.

So what happens when you do this?

The person who you connect with feels “seen”.

And we all know that when someone feels “seen” they get empowered, energised, happy and confident.

The rest of the audience can feel this and this positive feeling spreads through the group.

When you have this approach to connecting with the audience the audience will feel that you were engaging with them – and all you did was to look at them.

Sometimes the simplest of speaking strategies are the most powerful, and often those successful strategies are forgotten by many speakers.

Don’t be one of those speakers.

See your audience by establishing true, non selfish eye contact with a few of them.

(Picture from a previous speech I did as I dit not have a photographer with me to todays speech.)