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Essential Speaking Skills
All about the art of public speaking.

Be a Champion Public Speaker

Thursday, January 25, 2007 by Erick C. Vice

Being a champion public speaker doesn't necessarily mean that you are the best there is. Rather, it is following the philosophy of appreciating what you have, living your life as a champion, and enjoying the adventure of life by helping others enjoy theirs.

Questions you may have include:

  • What should be appreciated?
  • How does one live as a champion?
  • Why help others?

Appreciation

Appreciate and be thankful of what you have, especially concerning your public speaking or its effect on your career. Don't take your speaking or job for granted. Even the worst job is better than no job at all.

If you are presently out of work, appreciate your friends and family. Be thankful that you have skills and abilities. These will all be important in getting your next position.

Live as a champion

To live your life as a champion means to always seek to stay healthy, knowledgeable, excellent, valuable and honorable.

Health

You can't speak very effectively if you don't feel well. You should take care of your physical and emotional health, so that do what you want and need to do. If you are healthy, you simply feel good.

Knowledge and skill

A speaker needs to continually improve his or her knowledge in speaking techniques and subject matters. If you are knowledgeable and skilled, then your self-esteem will blossom.

Excellence

You must do your best and be able to to achieve your goals. Persistence and conscientiousness are important. If you accomplish things and are excellent at them, you feel confident about yourself.

Value

You must also make sure you provide value to your audience. The speech should be something they want and need. If you provide worthwhile speeches, you will be considered a valuable speaker.

Character

You must seek to maintain the position of being honorable and honest in your dealing with other people. In this way, you can hold your head up high and be respected for your integrity.

Enjoy

Life is a journey or adventure. Your chosen profession should also be an adventure, where you reap rewards and enjoy the trip. Hard work may be necessary, but you don't want to have the attitude that you are stuck in some drudgery. Enjoy the adventure.

Part of that enjoyment is giving back and helping others to enjoy their adventure. It is often difficult to find places to help others, so keep your eyes open. Give others at work a helping hand. Mentor to young people.

Giving and helping will only increase your enjoyment as a champion in life.

In conclusion

To be a public speaking champion, you should have the attitude of appreciating what you have, you should live your life as a champion, and help others to succeed.

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Article: How to prepare your mind and body to give a great speech

Saturday, January 20, 2007 by Erick C. Vice


Blogger’s Note: Hi folks! For the next one week, I will be camping in Yellowstone National Park with a group of close buddies. However, do not despair! I have set aside seven extremely useful and easy-to-apply public speaking articles for your reading pleasure. I would also encourage all of you to spend some time evaluating the ideas shared in these articles. Try them out and see how they work for you. Later!!

(Written by Sandra Schrift)

Sure you have catecholamines – all speakers do. (including Sir Winston Churchill and Presidents Kennedy, Carter, and Reagan.) Those are the chemicals that make you sweat, make your heart beat fast and make your hands shake. Get rid of those chemical and psychological reactions by becoming message-centered and audience-centered, not self-centered.

1. Replace fear and negative noise with positive affirmations.
Create new beliefs that nurture you and support you with new ways of thinking. The New Adult You! example: “I am well prepared, and the audience wants me to succeed.”

2. Do a quiet meditation, visualization, or exercise before you speak.
Breathe deeply. Deep breathing sends a message to your brain that you have nothing to fear. It calms you down.

3. Who cares if you’re nervous?
Researchers have found that most people report noticing little or no anxiety in a speaker. If you are thoroughly prepared, your internal nervousness seldom shows. Prepare 150%.

4. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
Talk out loud, and walk around while you practice. Use the same physical energy you plan to use on the day of your presentation. The Coach sez. . . practice in front of your mirror .Practice in the car. If you can concentrate while driving, you will be able to pull it from your unconscious when are you in front of the group. Make your points sound spontaneous and conversational.

5. Exercise is an antidote to stress.
Arrive early and take a brisk walk for at least five minutes. If it is raining or snowing outside, you can still do some body stretches.

6. Abstain from caffeine and alcohol before you speak.
You don’t need more jitters. Always wear your favorite outfit and use attractive colors. Women, go simple on the jewelry. Avoid too much black and white.

7. For trembling hands, place your hands on the side of your chair, and, count to 10 as you try to lift the seat.
This is an isometric exercise that works and nobody will notice you doing it.

8. Don’t be perfect.
Give yourself permission to make mistakes. No one is perfect in real life. Get the butterflies in your stomach to fly in formation. That’s how you convert your stress into speaking power!

9. Reduce your nervousness by taking several deep breaths immediately before you ‘re introduced.
And for you chocoholics, eat some chocolate to relax your vocal chords.

11. If you experience dry mouth, chew your tongue to increase saliva flow.
Singers do this. Close your lips and bite down on the entire surface. Always have a glass of tepid (not cold) water nearby.

12. Focus on a friendly face in the audience.
Pretend you are having a conversation, rather than giving a speech. Just be yourself.

13. The Coach sez. . .Most of all, enjoy yourself and have fun.
SMILE. After all, aren’t you glad to be there? The sign of a mature adult is one who does not take himself too seriously.

14. Here is a vocal warm-up exercise used at the Ryal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.
Say:PaPaPaPa, BaBaBaBa, TaTaTaTa, DaDaDaDa, KaKaKaKa, GaGaGaGa Then do it backwards. (from Robert and Rande Gedaliah)

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Does your speech contain substance?

by Erick C. Vice


Here’s some food for thought. Whenever you give a speech or a presentation, do you deliver value to your audience? Value could come in the form of tips or solutions that your audience can take home and use immediately, be it to solve a problem or to become more effective. In other words, your speech or presentation must contain substance!

Patricia Fripp, a well respected speaker in the industry defined substance as “what makes an audience’s business and personal life better if they act on it”. It could come in the form of a three step strategy, a recommended book to read or tips to solve a problem.

If there is no substance then there is really no point wasting your audience’s time delivering the speech. And for those of who are always seeking to impact your audience, this would be a good starting point. The next time you deliver your speech, first take a step back and ask yourself the following questions:

1. Does my speech contain substance?
2. Can the audience use it right away, like today?
3. Do they get better after hearing my speech?

If yes, thank you!
If no, get going. Your audience deserved it.

Inspired by “Speaking for Impact - Connecting with Every Audience” by Shirley E. Nice. This is the second time I am reading it but there is still a lot to get out of it. Strongly recommended!

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The most fundamental and critical principle a speaker has to know

by Erick C. Vice


Yesterday after my morning swim, I ended up in the local library browsing through stacks of public speaking and presentation related books. Sadly, only a few are worth borrowing back. The rest of them (~90%) talks about the same stuff. These books either spell out 101 techniques to giving a better speech or they let you in on yet another 101 tips that all speakers should know (yeah right!) The titles didn’t help much either. They are bland, boring, common, dull, monotonous, uninspiring… (yawns) You get my point! And then it dawned upon me why there are still so many bland, boring, common, dull, monotonous and uninspiring speakers out there terrorizing the unsuspecting audience like me and you…

And no, it has got nothing to do with the bland, boring.. (okok.. u get my point) … books. The responsibility lies on the speaker!

Here’s how I look at it. Many speakers fail to understand a very fundamental yet critical principle in speaking. And sadly, no amount of books - no matter how interesting or boring - can help make them better until they understand it.

(Drumroll please)

The speaker got to believe in what he or she has to say. That’s the most basic requirement for all speakers. If they do not believe in their message, they should not even waste time delivering the message.

He can read hundreds of public speaking books. He can be the most experienced speaker in the world. He can win the most number of speaking accolades. But if he doesn’t believe in his message, he will never be able to impact the audience. Period. Conversely, if a speaker believes his message with all his heart, he will be able to win the audience over no matter how inexperienced he is. Techniques in this case become secondary.

In Michael Jeffrey’s book titled Success Secrets of the Motivational Superstars, he noted that these superstars (like Brian Tracy, Anthony Robbins and Patricia Fripp) had a vision of themselves making a difference in people’s lives by sharing their message, one that was bigger than their fear of appearing foolish in front of an audience. As a result, they were willing to go out and fall on their face in front of as many audiences as were necessary for them to “get it right”. There you go! Not only can a message that you believe in allow you to impact your audience, it also help reduce your fear of speaking.

Think back to the past speeches that you have gave. It could be a business presentation to your client. It could be a presentation about your project findings to your classmates. It could be a keynote speech at your company annual conference. Was there some part of you that do not believe in the presentation? Like “This product isn’t that good anyway” or “I don’t even trust my findings that I have gotten”, “These guys won’t even listen”… If the answer is yes or maybe, then you have just sabotaged your own presentation. At most, you will leave your audience thinking to themselves, “Boy she sure was good,” but you will never be able to leave them thinking, “Wow, I really can achieve my dreams!” Notice the difference?

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Learn by REFLECTING on your experiences

by Erick C. Vice

A month ago, I wrote an article on how you can be twice as good in 70 days by doing daily debriefs. How is it coming along? Notice any significant changes in your presentations? As you may recall, a person learn NOT by his experience but by REFLECTING on his experience. As such, for an individual to see improvements in his or her speaking ability, he or she needs to consistently evaluate their speeches and then plan how they can be better than their previous speech. This applies to professionals too.

I decided to post my daily debrief on last week’s talk The Purple Entrepreneur as a guide on how you can do your own evaluation too.

What happen?
Gave a 45 mins speech to a group of 40 students and lecturers at Singapore Polytechnic (similar to high school in States). From their response, I concluded that my speech was good but not that great. Could have been phenomenal!

Why?
I got extremely positive feedback from the people who spoke to me after the speech. They loved what I shared with them. My speech got them thinking. Some even commented that I was lively and funny which made the hour very entertaining for them. In fact, this speech opened up several doors of training opportunities for me in the coming month. Generally all these feedback were very encouraging but I was hoping for something even more impactful like “Gosh… your speech is a turning point in my life!” or “Now I know that I can be successful too.. thank you!”

What work?

  1. The variety of activities that I have included in my speech i.e. questioning, audience involvement, games, demonstrations. Even though most of the people came in looking exhausted, all - except for one - were kept awake and fully engaged.
  2. Rapport was built very quickly with the audience. Interaction with them before the speech worked extremely well. Getting them to know four people before my speech was effective too. Not only did it reduce the aloofness among the audience, it also raised the energy of the room significantly. Somehow when I begin, it doesn’t feel like I was talking to them for the first time.
  3. They love the humor which makes it very easy for me to connect with them. I see many smiling faces and audience arching forward to listen. That kept me going even though it was already late in the afternoon.
  4. Stories, especially personal anecdotes worked very well with the audience. Not only did it added color to my presentation, it underscored the message that I wanted to put across to them.

What did not work?

  1. We started late. People were only trickling in at 4pm (where the talk was supposed to begin). As such, the entire speech ended late. There was no time for me to answer specific questions which could have mean a lot to them.
  2. Impact was also greatly reduced because of a minute long acknowledgements to the audience at the start. Instead of giving more content at a short amount of time, more time could have been spent coaching the individuals on how they can become successful entrepreneurs.
  3. A slight hiccup: The handout was only printed on one page. The second page was missing as such I could not give out the handout at the end of the presentation.

What did you learn?

What if we start late?
Firstly, there is every possibility that the talk will start late. So be ready to cut short your presentation so that you still end on time! In my case, keeping to an hour long presentation may not be the best thing to do as it will eat into the networking/dinner session. It would also be wise to pioritize the content of your speech so that you know what to leave out when time is short.

To thank or not to thank?
Thanking the audience or showing gratitude at the start of the presentation may not be the best thing to do. This I learnt only after consulting the champion speakers and some public speaking books. Allow me to share my findings.

In the case of this talk, I felt that it was important for me to acknowledge the audience, especially the staff and lecturers as I was afraid that they - being more experienced than me in the entrepreneurial field - may not accept me or my speech. As such, I made it clear that my talk was more of a sharing and I was very honored to have them here. Although it did create a listening, I realized that it may not be necessary.

One of the greatest speakers in the century, Winston Churchill, once said that praise in the beginning of a talk sounds like flattery, whereas the same praise wedged in the middle of the speech comes off as sincerity. Ah-ha!

Also, I discovered that there are two ways that I could have added impact without discounting my credibility. One is by increasing my stage presence (we will talk more about it in a later post) and by incorporating an impactful introduction (one without all the pleasantries).

Murphy at work again?
Should have checked before my presentation. But well… it is Murphy! I manage to salvage the situation by collecting the audience’s email addresses and sending them the soft copy within the next 24 hrs.

What can you work on improving?

Through this talk, I have learnt the importance of presence and a powerful introduction. The truth is we do not have a second chance to create a strong first impression. So we have to do it right the first time. I am still in the midst of researching this aspect. Once I am done with it, I will share my findings with all of you.

I also need to learn how to manage my time more effectively. If you are given a 45 mins time slot, prepare a 40 mins presentation so that you have 5 mins buffer to handle unforseen situations like people coming in late or deepening a particular portion of your presentation that your audience may be interested in.

Wow! Cool stuff isn’t it? So, remember this… you learn not by your experiences but by REFLECTING on your experiences!

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How do I start my speech powerfully?

by Erick C. Vice

Last week, I wrote a rather long self evaluation on my recent talk at Singapore Polytechnic: "Learn by reflecting on your experiences". One of the dilemnas I had at that talk was whether to thank or not to thank the audience at the introduction. If you recalled, a large portion of the audience was made up of senior lecturers who are much more experienced than me (i.e seen more of the world than me). As such, I am fearful that if I did not set them up correctly by letting them know that this is a sharing more than a lecture, they may be resistant to what I have to say. There may be internal conversations like “Why should I listen to this young punk?” or “I already know everything that he is going to say”.

Not withstanding the fact that this fear of mine could be unfounded, there are many people out there who wonder how they should begin their speech. Should they first thank the audience before starting? How much time do they need to warm up the audience? What are some ways to create a listening?

Over the week, I did some research and even conduct a mini experiment through a talk in the weekend. I believe my findings would be able to shed some light to you and answer this fundamental question - How do I start my speech powerfully?

::Common Ground - We want to create an impact with our speech!::

Firstly, let’s establish a common ground. When we give a speech, we want to create an impact! We want the audience to be memerized. We want them to remember your message (and to remember you as well… in a good way of coz). We want to wow the audience and influence them to do what you want. We want them to talk about your speech even months or years later. But if we were to start our introduction with pleasantries like thanking the audience or telling them how happy you are to be here, we could be wasting precious minutes and reduce your impact. So there is no doubt about it. YOU GOT TO MAKE AN IMPACT RIGHT FROM THE START! Unfortunately, thanking the audience, acknowledging some people, telling unrelated stories (eg. how you got here), telling them how excited/nervous/anxious you are or asking irrelevant questions like how are you feeling today will not do the trick.

Then the challenge is this - How can you make your audience WANT to listen to you right from the start? In my case, how should I write my introduction such that even the senior lecturers WANT to listen to me and be engaged throughout the entire speech. Here are some pointers I discovered over the week.

1. Be sincere

Nothing beats being sincere. If you speak with the intent of making a difference to the audience or adding value to them, you will win the audience over effortlessly. Unfortunately I cannot teach you how to be sincere. It is something intrinsic. However, you can start by answering these questions.

Why am I giving this speech?
What can the audience get out of my speech?
What is it about my speech that is different?

Another effective way to invoke sincerity is by sharing personal anecdotes that relate to your message. Not only does it help convey sincerity, it also connects your audience by pulling at their heart strings!

Last weekend, there was a student speaker who was sharing about his experience in Stockholm. There wasn’t really a proper intro. He just went straight into his mini anecdotes but it worked very well! The anecdotes were real and funny and he effortlessly engaged the audience. That’s the power of stories!

2. Set up common ground right from the start

You need to show your audience that you are on their side and one of the easiest way is to set up a common ground. Talk about something that they can relate to. For example, “Terrorism is real and anyone of us can fall victim to these threats” or “Cancer is the number one killer in Singapore. We know it but how many of us did anything about it?” In my case, since the audience are made up of entrepreneur-wannabes, I may want to say something like “Everyone wants to be an outstanding entrepreneur these days. But why you?”.

Also notice my last two examples. Not only did I start with a common ground, I have also included a rhetorical question that sets the audience thinking. This technique (use of rhetorical questions) will make it easy for you to transition into the main message.

3. Disarm your audience right from the start

This is especially useful and even critical for a persuasion speech. Here’s a few:

Many of you think that you know everything but the truth is you know nothing…
We are all going to die.

If you have a good life, you are going to die. If you have a crappy life, you are still going to die…

The world is getting smaller, which means more competition. There are two implications to this trend. One, we have to get more sophiscated and two, we have to keep growing. However, the traditional means of education is lacking. There is so much information out there yet we are not learning fast enough; and worse, not at the critical areas… Are we doomed?
Looks like it… but there is a ray of hope!

For all three examples, I played with the audience’s fear. One, they know nothing. Two, they are all going to die. Three, they are doomed. When properly delivered, it breaks the audience’s defense and immediately creates a listening. In their heads, they are screaming for you to deliver them from their fears. For some of them, it may create doubt in themselves (Hmm, do I really know nothing??) which gives you an opening. Of course, if you do not have strong points to support the shocking statements you made earlier, you are going to lose the audience anyway.

4. If you must thank them, do it in the middle

My communication lecturer once taught me NEVER to thank the audience at the end of my speech. Because being appreciated is not what we want to the audience to take away, especially when we spent an hour or more persuading the audience to take a stand or shifting their paradigm. Instead of thanking them at the end, she recommended us to include a call for action.

During my last contest speech in States, I made her proud by following her advice. Instead of a typical “thank you”, I left my audience with a quote that reinforces my message that we have to let go of their fears to live fully. I stood on a chair (I did it in the introduction too when I shared with them my rappelling experience) and looked them in the eyes and said this: “Sometimes you have to let go to see if it is worth holding to”

But how about thanking them at the start? If you have realized by now, it is a no no. I later learnt that if you must thank them, do it in the middle. Why you may ask? Coz at the start, the audience knows that you are compelled to thank them. And when you do thank them, it sounds like flattery whereas the same thanks in the middle sounds like sincerity! I wasn’t sure if that was true and hence I did an experiment.

The experiment took place last weekend. I was invited to do a 15 mins sharing as the past president of SPIN (an entrepreneurial organization in Philadelphia). My intent was clear - to acknowledge the efforts of my seniors from the past five batches. To begin with these acknowledgements seem to a natural thing… until I stopped myself. I decided to try something else - insert the acknowledgements at the middle. The introduction went like this:

SPIN has been through a lot… (received applause)

I still remember last year Stella, the 5th batch President gathered all of us and passionately shared with us the vision of SPIN; and how we can make a difference. At that moment, seeds were sown.

Shortly, my batch took over. We gathered all the juniors and passionately shared with them the vision of SPIN; and how they can make a difference. At that moment, seeds were sown.

As I am speaking right now, the juniors are gathering their juniors and passionately sharing with them the vision of SPIN; and how they can make a difference. At that moment… (some of the audience complete the sentence for me - “seeds were sown”)

If you were to trace back to the founding of SPIN, you will realize that this process is repeated for every single batch. Today, I will not have been able to share with you the fruits that SPIN is bearing if not for every single one of them who sow the seeds…

Thank you seniors!

The result was clear. It was short and yet impactful. Not only did I engage the audience immediately (with the applause and having someone fill up my sentence), it was different. Not your usual thank you speech. It has a story. It brings people back to the making of SPIN. It has a lesson… AND I still get to thank the seniors. In fact, such an introduction made the acknowledgements even more meaningful. I had the seniors thanking me for the speech after that.

So here you go, start your speech powerfully with the above four pointers and you will be remembered!

5. Finally, if you have to include pleasantries in your introduction, please avoid cliches at all cost!

For example:

It gives me great pleasure to be here today.
Thank you for inviting me here.. I am so excited!
A very good evening to all of you…

Not only is it boring, you will be perceived as lazy because you won’t even put in extra effort to come up with a more interesting introduction.

Winston Churchill once said “Opening amenities are open inanities” By starting with something pleasant but unoriginal, you will sound dim and dull, which is 99% of all speakers out there. Ok maybe 98.5%. However if you want to stand out and impact your audience, drop all the cliche introductions and pleasantries. Start with a power opener and make your intro count!

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Urm… uh…you know…hmm…oh yeah…pause (uh) fillers…

by Erick C. Vice

Have you ever counted the number of “uh”, “urm”, “you know”, “hmm” or “now” littered in your speech? I did. Not pretty. I still remember the first time when someone counted for me. It was so bad that he stopped counting at 60. I wasn’t alone of course. In fact, it got to a point where the President of my former Toastmasters Club contemplated fining 10 cents for every “urm” and “uh” in our speeches; in order to get the club out of the red! (Shan’t name the club for “face” sake)

Come to think of it… he should have. Imagine the amount of money our club could have profited. We had 25 members at that time, with an average count of 20 “urms” and “uhs”, which equated to 500. In one session, we could have easily made $50! What a deal!!!

In Toastmasters, we have a term for these nasty word pests. They are called pause fillers. Quite obvious isn’t it. They fill up the pauses in our speech, usually sub-consciously. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it), this habit is practiced by all of us in our oratory evolution. When we forget a word or a point in our speech, we inadvertently let out these strange sounds as we try to remember what to say next. At times, they also “help” to fill the sudden silence that occurs in the middle of our speeches. I even notice speakers using pause fillers as crutches when they get all nervous and scared.

So are pause fillers necessary? My answer is a firm no unless you want to protray to the audience your lack of confidence and preparation. Pause fillers also reduce the impact of your speech significantly.

But here’s the problem. Very often, these pause fillers manifest themselves without warning. How then can we eliminate them if we do not know when they will pop up?

Firstly, be conscious of your speaking! That was the first advice I got from a well respected speaker after my appalling rendition of pause fillers in my maiden speech. He told me to listen to myself as I deliver my speech. And each time I am about to spew out a pause filler, catch it (figuratively of course). Something like this:

“As you can see, energy is…(potential ‘urm’ unleashing - stop it and then proceed)…everywhere. In fact you are soaking in it. (potential ‘urm’ unleashing - stop it and then proceed) You can even feel it…”

During the start, this may sound a bit awkard. It feels like your engine just died on you. However after a while, the recovery time will get faster and faster. After a while you will notice that you don’t even have the urge to fill your pause with “urms” and “uhs” anymore.

Secondly, get someone in the audience to count your pause fillers. It is impossible to notice all your pause fillers and with a third party, he or she would be able to objectively identify them. In every Toastmasters meeting, we have this kind person to help us do that. He or she is often call the “uh-counter”. In my case, not only did I learnt that I consistently polluted my speeches with “uh”, “urm”, “you know”, “hmm”, “now” (the list goes on)… I also made other funny noises and gestures. I have this habit of clapping my hand every time I make a point. I will also clear my throat at odd periods of my speech.

“Ok, NOW (clap) I will move on to my next point. (clears throat) NEXT (clap) I will (urm) share with you about more (clears throat) my (urm) experience…

Yes, it is that bad.

Thirdly, get used to the silence in your speeches! In oratorical speeches, silence sometimes speak louder than words! Not only does it create suspense, it also allow your audience to digest and process your message. In fact, pauses are also the fundamental mechanics of humor. Notice how the comedian will always pause before he unleashes his or her punch line. It is the same in your speech.

In your next speech, pause after every major point you made. It doesn’t have to be too long. Two seconds should suffice. You can even insert the pauses in your written speech. This will remind me to pause each time you reach a certain point in your speech. As you experiment your pauses, you will gradually grow comfortable with the silence. You will also notice that the urge to fill the silence with pause fillers is no longer there!

In one of a speech contest, the finalist came up on stage, walked to the center and kept quiet. He looked at the audience intently but did not breathe a word. After a really uncomfortable pause of about 30 seconds, he spoke: “I can’t do it…” and walked off. The emcee came back up on stage, apparently shocked. But before he could say a word, the speaker suddenly turned to face the audience and spoke again. “That’s life my friends. In time of need, in your dire moment when you feel like giving up, is there someone out there who stop you and nudge you to stay strong?”

The power of pause my friends!

Let’s play a game. The next time you give a speech, no matter how long or short, get your friend to count your pause fillers. Let me know if you broke my record! (Grins)

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Stage Presence: A gift for the lucky few?

by Erick C. Vice


Have you ever encounter speakers who have incredible stage presence and can mesmerize the audience just by being on stage? There is an indescribable aura or energy around the speaker that simply commands your attention. He draws you into his speech almost immediately and it takes ten Hercules to break the connection. Hours turn to minutes and minutes turn to seconds. When the speaker leaves the stage, you feel the inexplicable sense of disappointment.

Imagine if this speaker is you! Every speech you give will be mind blowing and you will have the audience eating from your hands as you desire. Now, won’t that be a gift you will die for?

In Richard Olivier’s book Peak Performance Presentations, he reasoned that Presence is the foundation of all good presentations. When a speaker has Presence, he delivers his material with confidence, energy and conviction; and the audience are naturally engaged and receptive.

To bring this further, a speaker with Presence owns the stage. When he comes up on stage, he is in charge. Every inch of the room belongs to him. Every single one of his audience is obliged to drop everything that they are doing and listen to him. Even the waiters and waitresses will stop at their steps and listen to him. In other words, nothing else matters except him.

However a lot of speakers are far from being present. They stumble onto the stage, soaked in their nervousness and self doubt. They begin their speech with either a series of pause filler (um.. I think urm… I will, I will start…) or worse, an apology. Some will rush into their speech like a bullet train and then splutter near to the end like an old worn-out car engine. You will also get some speakers who will unbashfully ignore you the entire time or execute extremely distracting body gestures that make you wonder if that’s part of the “show”.

So is Presence a gift that only the lucky few possess? I think not. I believe that everyone has it in us. All we got to do is to learn how to activate it. For the next few posts, I will share with you various practical techniques that will have you command the listening of your audience in no time. Who knows, you might be the next star on stage!

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Introducing the Foundations of Presence Part I - Stay Present!

by Erick C. Vice


One of the fundamentals of stage presence is staying present. Let me give you a counter example that most of us can relate to. Right before your presentation, all that you can think of is getting it done and over with. All you are present to is your nerves and inner voices, like “What if I forget my speech?” or “What if the audience gets bored?” Even during your presentation, all you can think of is rushing through so that you can get back into your seat. And right after your presentation, you have no idea what happened. Did your audience get your message? Were you on time? Did you finish what you wanted to say? All you can remember is saying thank you and getting back in your seat. You don’t even recall if the audience clapped for you and all you can feel is relief that it is all over. Familiar?

A lot of us unconsciously spent most of our time during a presentation thinking about what has just happened (eg. forgetting what to say) or about what might happen next (eg. what if I run out of time?) And they totally forget about being aware of the present moment with the audience. As a result, the audience feel ignored, miserable and lost, which makes the presenter panic even more. Note the self fulfilling prophecy.

To quote the book again (Peak Performance Presentation), being present means that you are aware of what is happening inside you and you are aware of what is happening around you, in the moment in which it is happening. Yes, this may sounds obvious but how many of us have actually settled in this kind of awareness?

One of the easiest ways to become present to your surroundings is through relaxation, in case you haven’t realize! Relaxation eases the tension in your body, releases your negative energies and help sensitize yourself to your surroundings.

But how can one relax while being wrecked by his nerves? Chill, I will come to that soon (in the White Dog vs. Black Dog post). But for now, I want you to familiarize yourself with this relaxation technique that even a three year old kid can do. Come to think about it, don’t children do that a lot?

This relaxation exercise can take as short as 5 mins or as long as you deemed fit. I would strongly recommend you to try it right before every presentation, especially if you feel all worked up.

  1. Find a place where you can do this exercise, without being disturbed. You may not be able to find a place to lie down but don’t worry. Sitting down on a chair works too.
  2. Close your eyes and start paying attention to how your body feels right now. Take note of where your hands are placed. Notice the sensation between your butt with the chair and your feet with the ground.
  3. Begin to pay attention to your breathing, as if you were noticing it for the first time.
  4. Take a series of increasingly deep breaths. When you take in the oxygen, you should feel your mid stomach - where your navel is - being pushed out. And when you breathe out, your mid stomach should be sucked back in. You also want to take your time to breathe in and out. Don’t rush. The slower you breathe, the more effective is the exercise. I would recommend that you take 20 breaths.
  5. If you want, you can also imagine yourself in a soothing place. It could be in the forest where you can be close to Mother Nature or at your favorite getaway place with your loved ones. The intention is to put yourself in a safe and relaxing environment.
  6. Open your eyes and get up slowly. Take note of how you feel.

    For most people, you will feel a sense of inner peace. The noises in your head either reduced or disappeared altogether. You feel much more energized and recharged. Sometimes it even feels like you have just slept eight hours. You will also become more aware of your surroundings. You begin to notice sounds that you may be ignorant to before. And everything around you will also appear brighter and richer in color.

    Quite frankly, there is no better way than to experience it for yourself! C’mon, try it!

    P.S: As I was writing this post, I stumbled upon another exercise which helps you stay present. Click here to learn Steve Pavlina’s Presence Walk.

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Introducing the Foundations of Presence Part II - Ground Yourself

by Erick C. Vice

If this is the first time you are visiting this blog, welcome! This week I am focusing my posts on how you can activate your stage presence and command the listening of your audience. So before you read this post, you may want to start with the following posts:

Backtracking >>>
Stage Presence: A gift for the lucky few?
Introducing the Foundations of Presence Part 1 - Stay Present!

Great! How did the relaxation technique come along? What are some of the immediate effects you experience? Remember, like any technique or tool, its effectiveness comes from daily practices. So keep working on it until it becomes second nature.

Here’s another simple, yet effective exercise that you can try to enhance your stage presence. (derived from Peak Performance Presentations). It is better known as the Grounding Exercise which is widely practiced by actors and actresses. The principle behind it is the same - awareness! From the outside, when someone is grounded, he is seen as confident. On the inside, a grounded person feels strong, solid and supported. As Olivier aptly puts it: You feel as if you have the right to be there.

You should do the grounding exercise standing. Each lasts for no more than five minutes.

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and parallel. Balance the weight evenly between the front and the back of your foot. Make sure your knees are relaxed. We block our energies by bracing our knees. Start to push your feet into the ground, gently and slowly at first. Gradually, increase the speed and firmness of the contact.

If it helps, imagine that you have roots coming from the sole of your foot. They go down through the floor, through the foundations of the building and down into the earth below.

The beauty of the exercise is that you can do this anytime you want, without anyone noticing. However a slight caution. As you ground yourself, keep your upper body straight and relaxed. If you feel stiff, then you are doing it wrong. The purpose of the grounding exercise is to create a solid base (i.e. your support). Once that is achieved through the above steps, let your weight drop, so that your legs start to support you the way it is designed to.

Got it? As usual, find opportunities to practice it. A couple of minutes before your presentation, practice the relaxation technique that I shared with you in the earlier post. When you are called on stage, take your time to walk to the center stage. Ground yourself and then do your thing! Let me know how it goes.

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Introducing the Foundations of Presence Part III - Dual Attention

by Erick C. Vice

Earlier, I shared with you two physical exercises to activate your stage presence. Today I am going to introduce to you another one. This exercise is derived from a book titled “Peak Performance Presentation”. If you have the chance, go borrow the book. There are many more exercises in it that can help you optimize your peformance on stage. However, if you want the essence of it, then continue keeping track of this week’s posts.

As I shared with you before, stage presence is all about being aware of yourself and everything around you. Instead of focusing on the past (incidents that happened already) or future (incidents that may happen), you have to put all your attention into the present moment.

However very often, because of our nervousness, we get trapped managing our thoughts and emotions. As a result, we fail to pay attention to the external environment. To the audience, they feel like you are not there. As Steve aptly puts it: to be present is to see what you see, hear what you hear, smell what you smell and feel what you feel. In the context of giving a presentation, you gotta be with your audience fully!

Dual Attention Exercise
The next exercise I am going to introduce you will train you on becoming more present to what it happening both inside AND outside you, which explains why it is called the Dual Attention. (Alternatively you can try Steve’s Presence Walk which I thought was equally useful)

(1) Right now, as you read this, become more aware of yourself. Become aware of your body, pay attention to your breathing and to the sensation of your contact with your chair and the ground.

(2) Accentuate this by closing your eyes for a moent. Take a deep breath and pay attention to your breathing, to your feet touching the ground, to your overall body feeling. Focus all your attention inwards.

(3) Now, hearsome of the sounds that are around. Let them simply be there, as part of your overall attention. Keep noticing your internal world of sensation at the same time.

(4) Now imagine that in a moment, you are going to open your eyes and look out into the world. But at the same time you are going to remain just as aware of yourself as you are now. It will help if, when you open your eyes, you think of the world outside you as coming towards you, rather than you going towards it.

(5) When you are ready, open your eyes. Look at the ground in front of you first, while you stabilize the Dual Attention, inner and outer at the same time. When you are ready, raise your eye level so you are looking at the world around you. At the same as you look at the world, remain aware of your breathing, of your contact with the floor and chair, of your body ad a whole.

Creating Your Triggers
The trick to activating your stage presence is to practice the exercises in your daily lives. The problem is sometimes we forget! Here’s a quick remedy. Create a trigger to remind you to be present to your surroundings. Let me share with my two triggers.

I consciously bought a black ballpoint pen at a bookstore. As I select the pen, I reminded myself that this pen will help me to stay present. Each time I see the pen, I will immediately pay attention to my body (eg. breathing and sensations) and my surroundings (sound, light and smell). This is similar to the Dual Attention that I shared with you earlier.

I also use the color red to remind me to stay present. Yes… each time I see something red like a stranger’s shirt, traffic lights or a stalk of rose, I will go conscious and become present. Think of red like an activating switch to wake me up.

As you continue to practice your presence, it will become second nature. The next time you come up on stage, you are automatically with your audience a 100%. You will be sharper and more aware of what’s happening around you. You will find youself gaining control over yourself, your audience and your environment. That’s when you begin to command the listening of your audience.

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Be good to your vocal cords

by Erick C. Vice

Last night I had a nightmare. I dreamt that I lost my voice! Yikkkeeeess. No matter how hard I tried to make a sound, nothing came out. Not even a whimper. Guess that is the speaker’s greatest fear after they conquered their fear of public speaking. How unfair! Anyway I woke up to my relief when I found out that I just had an itchy throat. (phew!) Nonetheless, to play safe, I went online and researched on how we should protect our vocal cords (aka voice) Here’s a list of practical pointers I found online that will save your voice for more meaningful purposes. Gossips don’t count…

1. Limit your intake of drinks that include alcohol or caffeine. These act as diuretics (substances that increase urination) and cause the body to lose water. This loss of fluids dries out the voice. Alcohol also irritates the mucous membranes that line the throat.

2. Drink plenty of room-temperature water. Six to eight glasses a day is recommended. On the actual day, avoid drinking ice-cold water. Room temperature water is recommended.

3. Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke. Cancer of the vocal cords is seen most often in individuals who smoke.

4. Practice good breathing techniques when singing or talking. It is important to support your voice with deep breaths from the diaphragm, the wall that separates your chest and abdomen. Singers and speakers are often taught exercises that improve this breath control. Talking from the throat, without supporting breath, puts a great strain on the voice.

5. Avoid eating spicy foods. Spicy foods can cause stomach acid to move into the throat or esophagus (reflux). Unfortunately that’s the hardest to do esp. in Singapore!!! We have laksa, curry fishhead, curry chicken, tom yam soup… gosh!

6. Avoid clearing your throat. If you feel a tickle in your throat or the need to clear your throat, cough gently and lightly.

7. Don’t overuse your voice. This is especially important for people who earn a living through speaking. For example, teachers, lecturers, speakers, trainers… eh politicians maybe? Try not to yell while at sports events. Limit talking if you have to raise your voice to be heard. Enjoy thrill rides quietly. (HUH?!) Avoid speaking or singing when your voice is hoarse. Best to keep your mouth shut. Don’t sing or talk on the phone.

8. Include plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your diet. These foods contain vitamins A, E, and C. They also help keep the mucus membranes that line the throat healthy.

9. Exercise regularly. Exercise increases stamina and muscle tone. This helps provide good posture and breathing, which are necessary for proper speaking.

10. Get enough rest. Physical fatigue has a negative effect on voice. Ensure that you have at least 7 hours of rest on the eve of your presentation.

Remember, be good to your vocal cords else don’t make any sound if you lose them. Yes, pun intended!

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Upping your Stage Presence Part I - White Dog vs. Black Dog

by Erick C. Vice

One time a Zen master shared with his students a story. He told them that he has two dogs. The first one is a white dog, benevolent and kind. The second one is a black dog, ferocious and wicked. Everyday the black dog will fight with the white dog. Out of curiosity, one of his students asked “Which dog wins?” And the Zen master replied “Whichever I feed the most.”

Inside us, we have two dogs too. The first is the white dog. Each time we are on stage, it will encourage us with its kind words. “You will be just fine!” or “Look, the audience love you! Keep doing what you are doing!” And every time we hear its soothing voice, we will feel much calmer and assured. Unfortunately, we also have the black dog. And more often than not, it is much stronger and louder. No matter how prepared we are, it will throw wet blanket at us and unleash negative comments that demoralize us. For example “You are going to screw up just like the other time.” or “Hurry up and get it done and over with, the audience has no time for you!” Ring any bells?

Unfortunately, we listen to the black dog more than we do with the white dog. We believe the black dog and distrust the white dog. This, my friends, is the root cause of our nervousness, and also one of the major barriers we faced as we try to upp our stage presence. The real reason why we are terrified on stage is not because of our nerves. It is the inner voices from the black dog that is causing us so much pain and fear. On stage, we become so focused on ourselves and our fears that we become paralysed. As a result, we fail to put our attention on our audience.

When we give your speech, we get distracted by the black dog - “You are going to forget your speech again!” As you attempt to look at your audience, the black dog barks at you - “Yeah look if you want… don’t blame me if you see the bored faces.” The more you listen to the black dog, the more control it has over you. Without you knowing, other symptoms will start manifesting itself. You either start mumbling like an old nanny or rattle on like a bullet train. You start getting more uncomfortable as times goes. Your hands will turn cold. Your legs will start shaking. And you begin to fieel out of place. Before long, your connection with the audience will break and there’s no turning back… all thanks to your black dog.

So how do you remedy it? How do you reduce your nervousness and focus on your audience? Simple! By feeding your white dog. The more you listen to it, the stronger it becomes. After a while, your black dog will whimper and fade into non-existence. Easier said than done of course! Especially since you have fed the black dog most of the time.

In the next post, I will share with you how you can effectively weaken your black dog and strengthen your white dog. For now, I want you to reflect on your past presentations and speeches. What are some of the words that your black dog says to you? List them down. The more the merrier. Talk soon!

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Upp Your Stage Presence Part II - Who let the (black) dog out?

by Erick C. Vice

So… have you done your homework? Have you think about what your black dog says to you at the critical times of your presentation? What are the top five that comes up all the time? How do you react physically, emotionally and mentally? Here are some of mine.

Black Dog says…
You don’t deserve to win Eric.
They are laughing just to humor you… the truth is, you are boring.
The audience has no time for you. Hurry up and get off the stage.
Awww.. Eric trying to do his thing again. Don’t you remember how you failed the last time?
You will never be good enough.
You are such a disappointment.

And the list goes on…

Sometimes there seems to be two or more black dogs barking at you simultaneously. In my case, “You will never be good enough” always come hand in hand with “You don’t deserve to win.”

So where do these voices (or inner critic) come about? In “Peak Performance Presentations”, the author reasoned that they are the results of a natural evolutoinary process that uses the lessons of the past to inform the present. We remember messages we receive about a certain situation and internalize them as “learning” that “teaches” us how to respond when a similar situation triggers the memory.

Use it well and sometimes it can save your lives. For example, before you cross the road, there will always be this internal voice that says “Wait, look before your cross” or something along that line. This could be what your parents tell you all the time when you were much younger. After a while, we begin to internalize it and when a similar situation arises, it triggers the inner voice.

Therein lies a problem. What if the inner critic outlives its usefulness? Let’s use this one for example: You are such a disappointment!. After consciously vocalizing the inner critic, I traced back to the first time I heard this voice. I was six then. I lied about school grades but unlucky for me, my dad found out. In a fit of anger, he caned me real bad and said these hurtful five words - You are such a disappointment!

Not surprisingly these five words left a huge impact on me. In a way, they reminded me never to lie again. They also motivated me to work hard and made my dad proud (which is not a bad thing actually) Yet years later, this voice never left me. Whenever there is a “dad-lookalike” in the audience, this voice will hit me like it did when I was six. I will start to feel nervous and then guilty, which later surmounted to feeling like a fluke. It ALWAYS gets to me no matter how prepared I am. I will get lost in my own world. Sometimes I will even speed up and get the presentation done and over with… Some people may think I was just nervous but now you know better.

Here’s what I want you to do.

(1) Recall your last few presentations. List down as many inner critics as you can. The more data you collect, the easier to locate source of problem. When you are done, pick the top three.

(2) What triggered the voices? Could it be someone you see in the audience? Or does it happen right when your name is called?

(3) How do you react physically, emotionally and mentally when you hear these voices? Do your palms start sweating? Do you begin to stammer or speed up? Do you get all fidgety? Do your heart start beating faster? Do you forget your lines?

(4) Also start tracing back to the source of this voice? Who do you think said that? Could it your mum, teacher, best friend or even yourself? What happened that cause you to say that?

Remember this: Les flics dans la tete! In French, it means that the cops are in your head! Get them out and take a good look at them.

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Upp Your Stage Presence Part III - Feeding Your White Dog

by Erick C. Vice

I gave you an analogy of the eternal fight between two dogs. The white dog is kind and benevolent while the black dog is ferocious and wicked. Whichever dog you feed the most, wins.

Likewise on stage, we are influenced by these two dogs. Feeding the white dog gives you courage while feeding the black dog gives you fear. In Who let the (black) dog out?, I then shared with you the origins of the black dog and how it can cripple you on stage. In this post, I am going to share with you an effective way of countering the effects of your black dog so that you can be at your best on stage.

It will help if you have the answers of these questions ready:

(1) Recall your last few presentations. List down as many inner critics as you can. The more data you collect, the easier to locate source of problem. When you are done, pick the top three.

(2) What triggered the voices? Could it be someone you see in the audience? Or does it happen right when your name is called?

(3) How do you react physically, emotionally and mentally when you hear these voices? Do your palms start sweating? Do you begin to stammer or speed up? Do you get all fidgety? Do your heart start beating faster? Do you forget your lines?

Pick one of your inner critic from the top three. Let’s use mine for example - “The audience has no time for you… Hurry up and get off the stage”. Each time I hear this voice, I will start to speed up uncontrollably. I will mumble and try to get the entire presentation done and over with ASAP! This also means that I will avoid all eye contact with the audience. It is almost as if my soul has left the body and whoever is on stage was just running on auto-pilot. Something like Adam Sandler when he fast forwarded time in “Click”.

In order to counter the voice of the black dog or your inner critic, you got to first create a voice for your white dog or inner coach. In my case, a plausible inner coach’s voice could be “The audience has all the time in the world for you. They are loving every minute of you on stage.” Let’s try a few more.

Black Dog: You are boring… the audience is going to doze off.
White Dog: You are entertaining… the audience is laughing non-stop!

Black Dog: You are not good enough for the audience.
White Dog: You are perfect for the audience.

Black Dog: You don’t deserve to win, Eric.
White Dog: You deserve to win, Eric!

As you can see, the voice of the white dog is a direct opposite of your black dog’s. This is to ensure that it can accurately counter the effects. But how do you know if it works?? Simple. Run the voice in your head. Vocalize it. You can even get someone to said it to you. At first, it may sound weird or unnatural. But keep playing the voice over and over again until you are used to it. And here’s the acid test: You gotta feel good about it!

To further anchor the voice of your white dog (or inner coach), try this. Close your eyes and play the voice in your head again. And now locate its source.

(1) Where did the voice come from? Your left? Right? Behind you? Or is it Dolby surround sound?

(2) How did the voice sound like? Is it a male’s voice or a female voice? Does the voice remind you of somebody?

Why is this important you may ask. What you are doing is creating a relationship with the new voice. Once a relationship with the voice is established, you will find it easier to invoke it when the situation arises. When I first run this exercise on a group of participants, I got very interesting sharings.

One of them found the source of the voice to be her favorite teacher. Upon inquiring, we learnt that he has been instrumental in her evolution. And it was clear that he has made a huge impact on her. What better voice to associate with than her teacher! Another of my student recounted that the voice sounded cartoonish. In fact it sounded like one of the carebears in her childhood cartoon. To some, it may sound childish or even stupid. But so what? As long as it works for the student! I have another student whose white dog’s voice sounded like God in Bruce Almighty. He has this deep and distant voice that made her feel very comforted and confident. As you have realized by now, it doesn’t matter how the voice sound like as long as it makes you feel good!

Let’s deepen this further. As you run the voice of your white dog in your head, what happen to your black dog? Create a scenario that is memorable and more importantly effective. Make it fun too! I have one participant who pictured his black dog getting smaller and smaller till it became a speck of dust. Even better, one participant’s black dog transformed into a white dog. And now he had TWO white dogs. Powerful!

The next time you give a speech, summon your white dog! I found this exercise particularly useful. As you await your turn to speak, play the voice of your white dog in your head. Take a couple of deep breaths and let the voice sink in fully. Allow the voice to support and encourage you. Remember the acid test - you gotta feel goooooooooooooood!!!

Like all techniques, you have to practice it regularly. Otherwise, it has absolutely no value to you. As the saying goes: To start, you don’t have to be good. But to be good, you have to start. So go on… try it!

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Win people to your way of thinking

by Erick C. Vice


  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
  2. Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say, "You're wrong."
  3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  4. Begin in a friendly way.
  5. Get the other person saying "yes, yes" immediately.
  6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
  7. Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
  8. Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.
  9. Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires.
  10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
  11. Dramatize your ideas.
  12. Throw down a challenge.

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The Art of Schmoozing and Winning Friends

by Erick C. Vice

I recently received a very interesting question and I would like to take some time to answer it here.

“Can you share with me on… how to make small talks with people of higher authority? (for eg, after attending a talk, there’re many people worth saying hi to…how to do tt without feeling out of place? what to say? how to start? )”

There are two parts to the question:
1. How do I make small talks
2. How do I make small talks with people of higher authority?

To answer both questions, I would first like to introduce you to a concept call SCHMOOZING. Schmoozing is more than small talk. And I would like to borrow the definition from a very insightful book titled Vault Guide to Schmoozing.

Schmoozing is noticing people, connecting with them, keeping in touch with them — and benefiting from relationships with them.

Schmoozing is about connecting with people in a mutually productive and pleasurable way — a skill that has taken on new importance in our fragmented, harried, fiber-optic-laced world.

Schmoozing is the development of a support system, a web of people you know who you can call, and who can call you, for your mutual benefit and enjoyment.

Schmoozing is the art of semi-purposeful conversation: half chatter, half exploration.

Schmoozing is neither project nor process. It’s a way of life.

Now that you have an idea of what schmoozing is, allow me to share with you three principles of schmoozing that will answer the above two questions.

1. SMILE!

You can’t go wrong with that. Smile and the whole world smiles back at you. Nothing is as powerful as a sincere smile. It cost nothing yet it means so much. The next time you attend any function, just smile at people around you. You will be surprised how easy it is to make the first connection!

2. Be REALLY interested in whoever you are talking to

If you are out there to get something out of everyone, it will show. Instead, try this. Go out and make a friend. Keep a “I want to know you better” mentality and creating small talks will be a piece of cake. In fact you will find yourself going beyond small talks and start enjoying every conversation you made.

3. Find a common ground

You smiled and made the first connection. You are really interested to know the other person. Now what? Simple. Find a common ground. You would never want to start a converation with a “So how old are you really?” or “I sell insurance, do you want to buy from me?” or “Are you Christian?” This is extreme but you get my point. So what are some topics you can talk about? If you are in a seminar, you can start with “What made you attend this seminar?” or “Who do know here?”. If you are in a party, you can start with “How do you know the birthday boy?” or “How do you find the food?” Notice that these questions are open-ended. Avoid asking the “Do you …” questions which often lead to a yes, no or maybe. Hardly a great way to start a conversation!

4. Listen!!!

Now that you have got the person talking. What do you do? SHUT UP and listen! Listen to what your new acquaintance has to say and paraphrase. Say he told you that he knew the birthday boy at another school party. You can continue by first paraphrasing “Oh so you went to that party with him…” and then proceed with “What party was that?” And make sure that you pay attention and really listen. Let him talk and you will have a chance to locate any common interests. Say “Oh yeah.. it was a party for my scuba diving club…” and if you like scuba diving, you can now delve deeper. “Really? I love to scuba dive! Where was the last place you went….” Got it?

5. Follow up

You have a wonderful time with the new acquaintance. And you both bid farewell. Ask for his number or business card. And when you get back home, send him an email or give him a phone call. Thank him for being so much fun. And you can proceed from there. We call that a follow up. And this is also the part where most people forget. In my opinion, it doesn’t make sense. You spend so much time and energy to turn a stranger into an acquaintance. Surely you won’t want to stop there. Besides you never know when you will need the person’s help or the person’s friend’s help. So always be gracious and remember to follow up!

The above five tips apply to schmoozing with higher authorities as well. But I know what most people will say: “He is a big shot… what if he gives me a cold shoulder?” From my experience, very seldom! In fact they love it when you take the proactive approach to get to know them. One thing that worked really well for me is this:

BONUS: DO YOUR HOMEWORK!
Before the big event, find out which big shots will be attending. You can usually find out via the event website or by asking the event organizer. Google for the big shot and very often you will find some information about him. Read it and memorize one important fact about him. For example, he recently organized a large technology conference in China. When you see him, ask him about it. This would be your “common ground” and he will be fairly impressed!

And I would like to emphasize this: ALWAYS FOLLOW UP! At the end of the conversation, thank the person and ask for his business card. They will usually not decline unless they run out of cards. Here’s one tactic I use all the time. “John, if the next time I have any questions on this topic, can I ask you?” They cannot say no. And even if they say no, they will usually refer you to someone else.

Once you collect his business card, send him a thank you email (at the very least) at the end of the day or the next morning. Thank him for sharing with you x, y and z. (You gotta remember what he shared!!!). And if you have any more clarification/questions, now would be the best time to ask. Without knowing, you have found yourself a mentor without really finding one!

There is really more to it so if you have any more questions, let me know.

Here’s another book that I would strongly recommend: How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

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Six ways to make people like you

by Erick C. Vice


  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person's interests.
  6. Make the other person feel important - and do it sincerely.

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Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

by Erick C. Vice


  1. Don't criticize, condemn or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

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Recommended Article: Mastering Conversation

by Erick C. Vice

There is an article by Scott Young that I would like to recommend all of you to read. His blog is one of the few that I read religiously every day. This article is even more relevant to those who attended the talk I gave at NUS on 25 Nov, titled How to Charm your Listeners: The Art of Making Small Talk For those of you who could not register because it was full house, I have good news for you. NUS PROSE is considering to do a re-run either in Nov or Dec. Not sure the time yet. But I will let you know when I do.

Meanwhile, enjoy Scott’s article - Mastering Conversation

There is a book that I would also like to recommend you if you are interested in becoming a great conversationalist. It is by Dale Carnegie titled How to win friends and influence people I have read it back to back at least three times and there is still much to uncover and realize. Check out this page where they give a summary of his golden pointers.

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It pays to know who you are talking to

by Erick C. Vice

For those of you who are familiar with Friends, here’s one particular scene which I thought was very apt as a lesson for all of us. This is with regards to knowing your audience. As we all may have heard/read/remember, the degree of success as a speaker depends on how well you know your audience.

Context: Rachel and Phebe had to pit against each other to become Monica’s bridesmaid. They got Ross and Joey to be judges. To win, the girls have to convince them that one of them is much better at handling the hypothetical scenarios of Monica’s wedding.

Ross: The one who give the best maid of honor speech will win and become Monica’s bridesmaid. Rachel, you go first.

Rachel:
I met Monica when we were a couple of 6 yrs old. I became friends with Chandler when he was 25… although he seems like a six year old. (chuckle from judges) I have known them separately and I have known them together. But to know them as a couple is to know that you are truly in the presence of love. So I would like to raise my glass to Monica and Chandler, and the beautiful adventure they are about to embark together. I can think of no two other people better prepared for the journey…(joey and ross about to cry)

Ross: Ok, Phebe’s turn although I don’t quite see the point…

Phebe:
(Raise glass) I cannot believe they are getting married. I remember talking about this day with Rachel while we were showering together……naked. (silence from judges)

Joey: And she is back in the game!!!

Friends, as you can see, it really pays to know who you are talking to.

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Public Speaking : Personality Plus

by Erick C. Vice

Public speaking training session on unleashing your personality in your speeches and presentations.

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Public speaking do's and don't's

by Erick C. Vice

publicspeaking.jpg

by Eszter Hargittai

As Jerry Seinfeld once noted, at a funeral, most people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy, since public speaking stresses people out more than death. But giving talks doesn't have to be such a frightening affair.

Whether you're giving a talk at your local library, updating your colleagues on work progress, or presenting to a large group of strangers, there are some simple steps that should help make public speaking a better experience - for both you and your audience.

Presentation format

presenting5.jpgBefore you start planning your presentation, find out from the organizers how much time you have and what format they envision for your talk. Will you be part of a panel or will you be speaking alone? Will you be in a regular session or are you the dinner speaker? Do you have 15 minutes or an hour? Do they prefer to leave time for questions? If yes, does that come out of the allocated time you have been quoted? It is important to know what is expected of you so you can be well prepared and not have to scramble last minute to readjust your talk due to unanticipated logistics.

Audience

Get information about who will be attending your presentation. Will the head of the company be there or just co-workers? Are all participants experts at the topic or will there be novices present? Is there a mixed group of people representing different backgrounds or is everyone on the same page regarding technicalities? Depending on the audience, you will have to spend some time giving varying degrees of background on the material and explaining certain concepts.

Location

If you have the opportunity, take a look at the location before the time of the talk. It will help you visualize the context of the event and ensure that you are not caught off guard by peculiarities of the space.

The take-away message

If someone who missed your talk were to ask an audience member in the elevator to sum it up, what would you like that person to say? Focus on that message. Start out with this summary statement in mind and build your presentation around it.

Outline

Once you have an idea of your presentation's main message, spend some time thinking about the structure of the entire talk. All of the material you cover should contribute toward communicating your core message effectively. Start by writing an outline of the talk including main sections and subsections.

Strong start

presenting1.jpgThe first couple of minutes of your talk should be the most prepared and polished. You want to get off to a good start. Those are likely to be the most nervous moments so it is best not to leave anything to chance. By being well prepared, you can convey your messages with confidence. It is important to establish early on that you are prepared and are worth people's attention.

Motivation

Spend a bit of time up front talking about the inspiration and importance of your message. Listeners should get a bit of background on what motivated your work or project in the first place. What may be a fascinating topic to you may not be to the next person so don't take for granted people's interest in the issues you are discussing. Explain why they should pay attention and why your comments matter.

Timing

People rarely want to listen to someone for longer than the allotted time. Few people are such amazing speakers that an audience can't get enough of them. Do not assume you are one of those few. Wrap up your talk on time. To achieve this goal, ask someone to give you time cues by indicating when you have five minutes left, two minutes and when you have run out of time. Once you get the last notice, you should stop talking.

A common pitfall for presenters is to add unprepared introductory remarks to their talk. The temptation of addressing previous speakers is great, but beware. If your total alloted time is 15 minutes (a frequent limit with many speaking engagements), adding a 3 minute intro (not to mention longer!) will use up 20 percent of your time. However, this is something no one ever builds into their talk. Either prepare for this or let go of the temptation to add commentary at the last minute.

Flexibility

Organize your talk and know it well enough to have the flexibility to skip certain parts or expand on others depending on the circumstances. For example, if you do add a last- minute introduction (as per the previous point), be flexible to skip a part of the prepared content.

Confidence and enthusiasm

You have been chosen as a speaker because you know your topic. Make sure that you exert confidence during your presentation. Don't apologize for what you don't have with you to present or what you do not know. Rather, focus on what you can talk about and discuss the material with confidence. This does not mean that you should be arrogant or patronizing. It means that you should look comfortable covering the material.

Be sure to enjoy your talk and show your enthusiasm about the content. Your interest in the topic will be contagious and will likely result in a more engaged audience.

Question-and-answer session

presenting4.jpg If there is a Q&A segment then be sure to keep a polite demeanor throughout. Thank people for their questions and feel free to praise them for good points. If you are not sure how to respond to a query then express your appreciation for the insightful comment and note that you will look into it.

Practice makes perfect

Practice the presentation a few times: more if you have less experience, less if you are a more seasoned public speaker. It can be especially helpful to give the talk to someone who is not in your field and is not intimately familiar with the material. This is helpful in seeing whether you have made the talk too narrowly focused or overly technical. Such a practice session does not have to involve the entire talk, it can consist of telling someone about your presentation outline.

Don't write out the material word-by-word and don't plan on reading text even if you do have it all written down. Having the text written out and parts of it memorized will constrain you. Memorize the structure of the talk and the outline, but not every word.

Contact information

Finish by giving the audience some contact information, including an email address and Web site when applicable. Mention that you welcome people's feedback and they should feel free to ask you questions either after the session or by sending you email.

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The Metaphysics of Public Speaking by JJ

by Erick C. Vice

Author’s Note: Last year during my one year stint in Philadelphia, I met up with this amazing guy, JJ at a speech contest. We became fast friends after that. Who won’t especially after you learn that he is as crazy about public speaking as you are AND he is cool about exchanging speaking pointers over beer and buffalo wings? Enjoy the article below penned by Mr Charismatic!

A topic that is often addressed in public speaking is how – How do I overcome anxiety? How do I deliver statements with maximum impact? How do I organize the contents of my speech? – but very seldom do we address the why. Why do we give speeches, and what should be our purpose?

I assert that the purpose of every speech should be to change the audience in at least one specific way. By the time you are finished the speech each member of the audience should walk away with some specific course of action in mind, and while this particular action may be different for each individual member, one may measure the success of their speech by the number or percentage of audience members that leave and take action based on the information given in your speech.

This metaphysical principle has certain implications for the how part of public speaking. For instance, every speech should be written around the action you want your audience to take. It should read out like a poetic math problem, where every single point adds up to your final point, and it needs to be clear that it would be more reasonable for the audience to follow your intended course of action than to maintain the status quo.

Furthermore, if you fail to give your audience a specific course of action at the end of your speech, then your speech has no point. This means you have wasted the audience’s time, and you have failed as a speaker.

This is what differentiates a speech from stand-up comedy, theatre, or other forms of verbal communication – the point of a speech is to have a point.

So from now on, when you write your speeches, start by thinking about what course of action you want your audience to take. Then select a story or set of stories that will illustrate and prove your point. Years after your speech has concluded, you need to be sure that even if the audience cannot remember a word of your speech, they remember the point that you were trying to make. After that, it is up to them.

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8 Speaking “Secrets” Revealed: Part 4

by Erick C. Vice

SPEAK FROM YOUR HEART

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!

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Things happen, pay attention!

by Erick C. Vice

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!

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6 + 6 = Everything you need to know (about public speaking)

by Erick C. Vice

Just finish hearing a 5 mins audio lesson by David Brooks on public speaking. For those of you who do not know him, he is the 1990 World Champion Speaker. In this week’s audio lesson, he talked about two sets of six words that can essentially cover all you need to know about public speaking. Sound too good to be true? I thought so initially but after hearing it, it does make sense. Let me give you a quick recap.

In Bill Gove’s golden gavel speech, he summarized the essence of public speaking into six words - “Tell a story, make a point”. The story does not have to be a BIG story like how you fought cancer or conquered Mount Everest. It is the everyday story that happen to you and anyone else. Not only do stories help connect with your audience instantly, it also invoked one or more of the six emotions that people can have. Namely - happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, disgust and fear (the other set of six words). If you feel these emotions in your story, it will also invoke these emotions in your audience.

Three things to note however.

    1. Every story that you tell must make a point, else it would just be plain chatting.
    2. Use your own stories! (No one can tell your story as well as you do)
    3. Everything that you encounter can become a story with a lesson.

So my friends, it is really impossible NOT to have any stories to tell. Even for loners who stay home all day long, they have a story to tell like what goes on in their mind for example! So the issue isn’t really with your stories, it is more about the point that you can make with the story. Some speech coaches (even me!) suggest that you write down all interesting stories that happen to you and save them in your computer. You can even categorize them if you want to. And when you need to prepare a speech (with a ready message), you can browse through the collection of stories and pick the most appropriate one. Not only does it make your speech more interesting and personalized, it is also unique!

Take yesterday’s lecture for example. It was a really long lecture, three hours to be exact. And it was impossible to remember everything the lecturer has to say. And those that I remember, are either in the form of stories or visuals! At one point, he was explaining about the concept of red flags (i.e. all recruiters and investors nit pick so that they can select the best). And he shared with us this story.

There’s this recruiting company that has a very interesting way of filtering resumes. They will shuffle all the 200 over resumes and throw away the first 50 resumes… coz they don’t want to hire unlucky people!

It was a really simple story. Not only did he made a point (on the red flags and the unfairness of the world), it was also funny. And we really appreciate it especially after sitting through almost three hours of lecture!

So…as you are preparing your next speech or even presentation, see if you can incorporate a personal story in it. Stop giving speeches. Start telling stories!

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Top Seven Presentation Bloopers to Avoid

by Erick C. Vice

In no particular order….. since all are equally bad…

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

Never assume that just because you have an audience, we 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. It is an extreme turn-off when the audience has to do the work i.e. figure out how your presentation is relevant to us. We are a bunch of selfish egomaniacs. 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!

Blooper #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 on our seat. Please entertain us! Make us love you. We really want to because if you keep ignoring our needs, we will do the same. Lucky for the speaker, 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!

Blooper #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 because most speakers don’t observe that. And guess what, the next time you give your presentation; we will be there to support you!

Blooper #4: Spelling errors on your slides

Imagine sitting in a formal business presentation with a presentation slide like this:

In the gamming industry…
Microfsoft
Upluft and Profit
Generated an annual revenue of $1.000000 dollars (huh???!!!)
Curent Maket size of 30 billion people

Ok, you get my point. When you have these glaring spelling mistakes in your slides, here’s the image you are portraying to your audience: sloppy and cannot be bothered. Unless that’s what you want the audience to think of you, I suggest you get someone to do a spell check.

Blooper #5: Bad pronunciation of words

It cracks me up when some presenters stumble upon the same word every single time, without any sign of remorse. There was one time I sat through a presentation where the team had to review a company’s product named Morange. And throughout the ten minutes presentation, they came up with oh so many ways to pronounce this word.

Moo-ronge
Ma-range
Ma-rangi
Mo-ran
Moo-rock

And I swear one time I heard Moron. They might as well labelled the product Moronic Morange. That would be… memorable. Some “credit” has to be given to the company who named their product mo-range.

Blooper #6: Reading off the script

Although my preference is to go without a script, sometimes there is a need for it. However more often than not, speakers are too reliant on their script. You see them referring to their script even if it is just reading their name and designation??!! Yes, this is very puzzling. I once came across a book that taught me how to read from a script. Here’s the golden rule. Never ever speak when your eyes are on your script. Instead, you should follow this three-step process: see, stop, say.

First, look down and take a snapshot of your script. Memorize a chunk of words. Bring your head up and then pause for a second. When you are ready, say what you have memorized in your own words. It’s a three-step process: see, stop and say. It is very important that you pause. Yes, it may be weird for you but in reality, the pause helps make your speech conversational. It also creates anticipation, which further deepen the impact.

Let’s use President SR Nathan’s opening speech at the Parliament as an example. Instead of reading the script word for word, he could use the see-stop-say strategy.

Forty one years ago
(pause)
Singapore was thrust into independence and an uncertain future
(pause)
At that defining moment of our history
(pause)
we resolved to succeed.
(longer pause for impact)
Together
(pause)
Singaporeans made key choices that made us who we are today
(pause)
a united people of different races
(pause)
living and prospering in harmony.

Blooper #7: Starting your presentation weak

Maybe it is just me but I get really pissed off when a speaker starts off his presentation with “Urm.. I guess I should probably start… ah ok, here goes…”. Or even worse “I am not really prepared for this presentation because (give some lame excuse). But anyway, I will start…” Trust me, giving excuses of why you may not do a good job will hardly win the sympathy of your audience. Instead, you will make us feel that we are unworthy of your time. You will be better off not giving the presentation since no one will be listening anyway.

As the saying goes, you will not get a second chance to make a good first impression. So make full use of your first 30 seconds to impress your audience. Here are a couple of ways you can start a presentation powerfully. You can tell a personal story and relate it back to the message of your presentation. Starting your presentation with a visual stimulating or humorous video clip will also create impact. Or begin with a thought provoking quote or a shocking statistic, which will create the listening for your presentation. All these are far more superior to your usual good morning/afternoon/evening niceties or worse, apologies.

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