Public Speaking

Public speaking’s a lot like judo . . .

It’s interesting how some things apply to disciplines as different as public speaking and self defense. My friend Ray Litvak , who develops awesome web content at www.writingwebwords.com has joined with a partner to open Budokai Judo Club, a judo club in North York, as a second business. What I find interesting about what Ray does as a judo instructor and what I do as a public speaking trainer is that the same issues apply to public speaking and presentation training as they do to learning judo.

Confirmation again

Ray publishes a blog on Budokai’s website and as I read one of his first posts I found confirmation yet again of what I’ve said for many years: that most people’s fear of public speaking comes from childhood experiences, particularly the experience of being bullied. We hear about extreme bullying cases in the media – the ones in which the victim can no longer stand it and takes his/her own life. But what gets a lot less attention is the long-term effect of being taunted and ridiculed in the school yard, in families and, unfortunately, at work.

So what?

Ray shares his own history of being bullied when he was growing up in Toronto and how judo helped him, then he provides a similar story about Jonathon, one of his students, and how judo brought him self confidence. So what’s all this got to do with public speaking and presentation training? Plenty, based on my experience.

A huge impact

What I’ve learned from clients over the years is that the things we hear about ourselves have a huge impact on our self esteem. We tend to become who people tell us we are – until, like Ray and Jonathon, we stand up for ourselves and redefine ourselves. Now, please note that I’m not saying we have to confront our bullies and overpower them. Sometimes that’s just not possible. Sometimes we have to endure. But what we don’t have to do is believe the negative things those people are saying about us.

My answer is “NO!!”

My favourite line from the book and movie The Help is “Am I gonna believe all them bad things them fools say about me today?” My answer is “NO!!” Bullies can say what they like about me but they can’t make me believe it if it isn’t true. I’ve been bullied and I won’t say that it could never happen again. But I can say that it would be a lot harder now to make me believe the garbage that some people can make up and throw at me than it was 30 years ago, or even 10 years ago.

I know who I am

Why? Because I have a strong, powerful vision of who I am and what I do for others. And my vision is based in reality. I know who I am – warts and all – I love myself just the way I am and I do my best to help other people to come to that same acceptance and self-approval.

Who do you think you are?

I’ve written before about the importance of knowing your topic,  and why value is more important than speaking skills. But, important as these things are, they are hinged to one essential presentation element: Who do you think you are? Because without a strong, positive image of yourself it will be difficult for you to be convincing.

What can you do?

So, what can you do about it? Well, when I work with clients one-on-one, we analyze the origins of their self image. And while it’s much easier for you to do that with another person, you can do some of it yourself. First, consider the source. Who was/is your bully? What were his/her motivations? Were the things he or she said fair and accurate or were they simply stones thrown at your ego in an attempt to bring you down to the bully’s level? How did those comments make you feel? Was the feeling justified at the time? Do you still carry those feelings about yourself? Are they justifiable in your present context?

The issue is self image

Really, this stuff isn’t rocket science; I wouldn’t understand it if it was. But I do understand when a bright, promising, capable person sits down in front of me in Ajax, Toronto or North York and tells me he or she has public speaking anxiety, in spite of their obvious significant abilities and qualifications. The issue is almost always one of self image. And it usually doesn’t take very long to unravel the source – often a bully or insensitive adult – who had significant influence at an early age.

From victim to victor

I applaud the work Ray is doing with kids who need to manage the physical elements of bullying. He’s helping them to raise their self image from victim to victor and he’s teaching them along the way that self respect is based on using power as a tool to protect, not a weapon to destroy. We can do the same for ourselves in dealing with the non-physical elements of bullying that can live long after physical wounds have healed.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today at 416-762-8488 in Toronto or 905-655-0119 in Oshawa/Whitby and Durham.

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

Public Speaking training can reduce pessimism

A client mentioned recently during our public speaking training session in Toronto that she tends to be a pessimist and that she thought her tendency was affecting her public speaking ability. She asked me what she should do to turn that around.

Begin with awareness

I believe that change begins with awareness and acceptance of your current status, accompanied by deep-seated desire to change and a long-term commitment to move toward the status you want to reach. In my experience, permanent change is a gradual process. It takes time, it takes awareness and it takes patience. I think many of us are aware of our current status but we’re not aware of the limitations that our view of the world can place on us. That’s totally normal, by the way. We all develop perspectives on our lives. Those perspectives often limit us. And because they’ve been with us for so long, they just become part of our “reality”, even if our perception of “reality” is holding us back.

Work with strengths

Our early life experiences tend to define who we think we are. I know this because I have lived it, particularly when I was a young man from a small town who came to Toronto. But we can rise far beyond what anyone would have ever expected, based on our early-life trajectory to excel and do much more than we might ever have imagined. We simply have to recognize our strengths and work with them to move forward toward greater life potential and satisfaction, including the ability to speak confidently in public.

Perceptions persuade

Your perceptions can persuade you to withdraw from experiences in an attempt to protect someone you may have been at one time long ago. The problem is letting those old values and identifications get in the way of current reality. And the current reality may be that you are a mature, intelligent, sophisticated, powerful person whose old perceptions are no longer working for you and instead are working against you.

The hard part

So what can be done? Well, like I said, it begins with awareness and acceptance. Once you become aware and accept, you have to decide if you want to change. And that’s where the hard part begins. It’s hard because so many of us grew up in environments where people tried to hide who they were, expected others to take responsibility and leadership. Most of us grew up among followers, not leaders. That can make us afraid to take responsibility. In a community where those around us were directed by others, we never learn leadership. And that makes the concept of leadership a little intimidating and frightening, particularly in a large, highly competitive area like Toronto and the GTA.

People want leadership

Too often, capable people are concerned that if they excel and stand out from the crowd they will be considered “uppity” and “too big for your britches” by those around them. But here’s the dichotomy: Most people WANT leadership! They want someone strong up front to show them the way and to deal with the issues. They may carp, complain and criticize but they don’t want to be leaders themselves. Why? Because they’re terrified of taking responsibility.

Risk can be valuable

It took me a long to time to realize that. Sure, everyone wants to be on top but the problem is that most – almost all – of those people don’t want to take any risk. But life – real life, not just existence – is about risk. I’m not talking about foolish risk. I’m talking about researched, measured, responsible risk. If we never step up, we get left behind. Responsible risk can be a very valuable thing.

Create affirmations

So how do we get from pessimism to optimism and the confidence to speak in public? One good route is to create a list of positive affirmations and repeat them as often as circumstances allow. You can learn about positive affirmations here: http://www.vitalaffirmations.com/affirmations.htm. The article will suggest some affirmations but you can make up your own and they will probably be more powerful for you because they will relate directly to you.

Appreciate the good stuff

Please understand that affirmations are just meaningless mumbo jumbo if you just mouth them without feeling them. You need to look at yourself and your life, pick positive things and really appreciate them. Most of us take all the good stuff in life for granted and complain about what we don’t like. It should be the other way around. We should treasure the good stuff and take the bad stuff for granted because “stuff” is going to happen but, for the most part, we’re very well off. Positive affirmations are about really appreciating the good stuff.

It takes time

It takes time, it takes patience, it takes self-forgiveness when we slide back a bit. But if we’re really committed to making change in our lives it really is possible. Whether it’s public speaking in Toronto, skiing on the slopes, sky diving or just looking in the mirror and liking what you see no matter what’s happening around you, positive thoughts about the little things can take you a long way.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today at 416-762-8488 in Toronto or 905-655-0119 in Oshawa/Whitby and Durham.

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

Difficult public speaking task successful

Hats off to the Duchess of Cambridge. She took on a difficult public speaking task recently and came through with shining colours.

She was a little nervous

“Kate”, as she’s known to most of us, delivered her first official speech at the East Anglian Children’s Hospice this week and, like most new speakers, she was a little nervous. Like most speakers, she struggled at the beginning, even though she undoubtedly worked with highly skilled presentation trainers and public speaking coaches. But she got through it fine and, overall, she did quite well.

She looked down at her notes

If I wanted to be hyper-critical, I could talk about how she looked down at her notes as much as she looked at her audience but for me, that was a small issue. She’s not accustomed to speaking in public. She is the future Queen of England and is therefore required to stick to her script to the letter and, as such, she knew that every word she spoke would be recorded, transmitted to millions of people, evaluated, assessed and criticized. Not your run-of-the-mill after-dinner address, even if she did have presentation training from top public speaking trainers.

A formidable group

She had plenty at stake and she knew it. Given that kind of pressure she did quite well, particularly given of the nature of the group she was speaking to. She was facing child residents of a hospice and their parents, knowing that those children would never mature, that those parents faced a future without their child; that this “precious time” as Kate referred to it, was short. What a formidable group to address as her first audience.

She stayed focused

Kate was very controlled. Partly because it’s her job to appear steadfast and strong. But I’ll bet that there was more than royal protocol running through her head as she prepared for and finally faced that audience. It’s an open secret that she and William hope to have their own child in the near future but, regardless of what private thoughts may have been on her mind, she stayed focused on the need to keep the audience’s attention on her royal visit rather than her unseen royal emotions.

She didn’t flinch

She could have so easily drifted into maudlin sentimentality or revealed her emotions, but she didn’t. It’s not easy for a woman who obviously loves kids to speak to terminally ill children and their parents as though they are any other group of parents and children. But she did it. Yes, she looked a little uncomfortable but she didn’t flinch.

Focus on her audience

Of course Kate has had plenty of public speaking training and we can expect that her presentation was heavily rehearsed. And I suspect that her presentation trainer helped her to contain her emotions. Her presentation trainer probably told her to focus on her audience, not on herself; and that what they felt would be more important than how she felt as she spoke.

Emotions can be difficult

We all have a duty to our audiences. After all, they are – or should be – the reason we’re up there in the first place. Emotions can be difficult to control. But sometimes they have to be squarely placed in the back seat while we navigate through what our audience needs to hear.

Stay focused

While it’s important in most instances to let our passion speak for us, as speakers, we have to recognize when it’s more important to stay focused on the message and to stick to it, regardless of how it makes us feel. You can see how Kate handled her challenge here.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

Protect your public speaking voice

I recently had a client who was training to deliver presentations to a number of divisions across Toronto and the GTA over a period of several days. The steady grind was taking a toll on his vocal chords and he asked what he could do to lubricate them.

Lots of dry throat remedies

Lubricating vocal chords just doesn’t come up very often very often in public speaking training, so of course, I did what everybody does these days: I Googled it. As always, there were lots of different opinions, and dry throat remedies, including a few that surprised me. And of course we have to take just about anything we read on the internet with a grain of salt until we’ve tried it ourselves or checked it out with someone we trust.

An interesting gargle

Speaking of salt, Dr. Van Lawrence, laryngologist for the Houston Grand Opera recommended the following gargle recipe: 1/2 tsp. of salt, 1/2 tsp. of baking soda, 1/2 tsp. of clear corn syrup, and 6 oz. of warmed, distilled water. He suggested that you gargle silently for two minutes, that you avoid rinsing and repeat this gargle as often as you need to. He also recommended drinking two quarts of water each day.

Saliva stimulators

But blues singer Isabella Snow has her own dry throat remedies. She says that water is only effective for a moment or two after drinking it, that nothing lubricates a throat better than saliva and nothing stimulates saliva production better than a sip of pineapple juice. If that’s not readily available, a bit of strawberry juice wins second prize, followed by honey and olives. The worst things you can drink, she says, are water, tea and beer. I’d add coffee to that list as well. You can learn more – and hear some of her blues styling here. If you listen to the clip at that link you’ll understand why she should know a thing or two about voice lubrication.

Last resort: water

In spite of what Snow says about water, if it’s the only lubricant you can easily turn to, I’d use it. I tried her pineapple juice alternative last week and it worked for me. But I don’t always have access to pineapple juice so my second choice would be water, consumed in small sips – just enough to lubricate my larynx, but not enough to bring on the need for a bio break in the middle of my presentation.

Probably the best approach is to experiment a bit to see what works best for you. You can buy expensive voice lubricants but if something as simple and inexpensive as pineapple juice, strawberry juice, baking soda and salt will work just as well or better, why not give them a try?

Vocal chords are delicate

One last suggestion: give your voice and your body plenty of rest. Remember that the vocal chords are just a set of muscles. But because they’re very delicate, they need proper care. And like any muscles, they can become strained. So if you’re doing your presentations over long distances that require traveling in dry atmospheres such as a commercial jet or train coach, be sure to keep your throat moist.

None for the road

Avoid excessive alcohol or coffee consumption and social situations like loud night clubs or sporting events where you may be tempted to strain your voice. And make sure you get plenty of rest. Rested vocal chords will perform better and longer than strained ones. And you’ll present your material with greater enthusiasm overall.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

Presentation training vs. speech writing

I enjoy speech writing. It’s a little different from my public speaking and presentation training work but it uses a lot of the same principles. The difference is that I have to visualize my client doing the presentation or speech as I’m writing it. And for that, there’s nothing as valuable as good old face-face contact. My PWAC (Professional Writers Association of Canada) colleague Bonnie Zink recently posted a link about the process and she agreed to have me post her comments here as a guest blog:

No substitute for face-to-face

I’ve been writing speeches for many years. I have learned through experience that there is no substitute for a face-to-face (F2F) (or phone call) meeting with the client before one word is written or edited. I find out several things during the meeting that I don’t feel would be as easily captured via email.

Capture their personality

First, a F2F meeting allows me to get to know the presenter. I’ve found that writing speeches is an exercise in living in someone else’s head. I need to know their speech patterns. I need to know their mannerisms. I need to know how fast or slow they speak (helps with gauging word count later on). I need to know if they are naturally witty. This helps me capture their personality on paper through the words I choose to write on their behalf.

The presenter’s point of view

Second, the F2F allows me the time to get to know the material from the presenter’s point of view. We discuss key topics. We discuss time allowed for delivery. I find out what their favourite quotes are. We discuss the presenter’s favourite anecdotes that may be helpful in showing the audience the concepts we are writing about. I find out who the audience is. I find out many more valuable tid bits that are priceless when it comes to writing (or editing) the speech.

The details

Finally, a F2F allows the presenter and I to get to know, and agree upon, the details of the project. We discuss deadlines, language, rates, as well as research and writing time estimates.

No substitute

I believe that there really isn’t a substitute for the F2F meeting. Email is great during the work, but an initial hour or two of face time is priceless. I find out more in that hour spent with the client than I can via the phone or emails.

Well said, Bonnie

As I read what Bonnie had written I found myself nodding in agreement. The only thing I would add is that it’s a lot of fun to, as she puts it, “live inside someone else’s head”. I’m glad to hear that other writers enjoy the process as much as I do. For me, speech writing is right up there with presentation training and public speaking training.

If you’d like to connect with Bonnie, here’s how to reach her:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/BonnieZink
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BZWriter
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/bonniezink
GooglePlus: http://gplus.to/BonnieZink

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

Does that make sense?

As a public speaking coach, I was intrigued by a discussion on the Harvard Business Review Blog about whether a speaker should use the phrase “Does that makes sense?” while doing a presentation or training session.

Are you serious?

My first response was, “Are you serious? Do you really think this is an issue?” But apparently some people – particularly people who need something to write about – think it is. Well, it’s not an issue for me; it’s just a fact of life.

It’s my duty

In addition to my one-on-one presentation coaching sessions I facilitate a lot of corporate workshops and public workshops, where I’m presenting concepts that are very familiar to me which may be brand new to the people I’m speaking to. It’s my duty – and it’s the duty of every facilitator – to check in with the audience from time to time. If you don’t, you can’t be sure you’ve really communicated.

Communication is slippery

One thing I’ve learned from hard experience as a writer and speaker is that communication is a slippery thing. I don’t think you really appreciate how slippery it is until you’re writing material that’s published to tens of thousands of people or when you’re publishing to a small but very critical audience. It’s amazing what people can read into what you’ve said, how they can misinterpret, misunderstand and generally just not “get” what you’re trying to convey. And often it’s nobody’s fault; it’s just the fragility of the communications process.

I always check in

I always check in with my audience to make sure I’ve said what I think I’ve said. And I look for nods. If I don’t see them I follow up with something like, “Hmmm . . . I’m not seeing any recognition out there . . . Have I communicated?. . . Is this clear for everyone before I move on?” That usually brings a few nods even from a reluctant audience and I’m able to move forward.

I ask

I only speak in public for one reason: to provide value. And I don’t know if I’ve provided value if people don’t tell me. And most times – at least during a presentation or training – they don’t tell me unless I ask. So I ask. And I get responses.

It’s crucial

If you’re doing presentations or training, I suggest you check in with your audience from time to time. I’ll admit that when you’re doing a formal speech it’s less necessary but in my opinion it’s absolutely crucial in the training process.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

Politicians provide public speaking training

I love listening to politicians, particularly because their actions often provide valuable public speaking training lessons.

Hudak made himself a target

Training, specifically Canadian training for recent immigrants, has become a hot issue in the current Ontario election. A couple of days ago I heard Ontario Conservative leader Tim Hudak tear into a plan floated by the Liberals to provide a $10,000 incentive to any company that hired new immigrants to allow them to get some Canadian training. Hudak sounded a bit like a junkyard dog and, with just a little froth around the corners of his mouth, he tore into the plan with venom saying his government would provide jobs for Canadians, not “foreign workers”. And with that one little phrase Hudak made himself a public speaking target that Liberal leader, Dalton McGuinty lost no time in attacking.

“The Tea Party element”

With the smoothness that comes from years and years as a ruling party leader, McGuinty pointed out that “in my Ontario there is no ‘them and us’, there is only ‘us’”. He went on to contrast his party with the Conservatives by referring to some of Hudak’s supporters as “the Tea Party element”. What a beautiful comeback! Whoever wrote those words for McGuinty deserves a raise.

Know your audience

It’s all delightful theatre but what are the lessons here? I think the first one is, know your audience; know what your audience needs and wants to hear. Hudak may have been appeasing some of the elements in his constituency with his reference to “foreign workers” but in this case I think McGuinty was more in tune with the broader electorate.

Choose your words

The second lesson is: choose your words carefully. Labeling new immigrants as “foreign workers” is dangerous territory and potentially inflammatory to Ontario’s millions of immigrant voters. Hudak virtually handed McGuinty the high ground and McGuinty was more than happy to occupy it.

Present your facts well

The third lesson is to know your facts and present them well. Based on his comments, it sounds as though Hudak grabbed the basic information and just came out swinging whereas McGuinty gave a considered, measured controlled response. If Hudak had analayzed Mcguinty’s policy more thoroughly and offered a better alternative he would have come off sounding much more attractive to the majority of voters.

Prepare your messages

And that brings me to the final message: know what messages your words and actions should deliver and prepare them well. One of McGuinty’s key messages in this election is the need for stable, experienced leadership and Hudak gave him the opportunity to deliver that message once again. Unfortunately for Hudak, he left the impression that he’s an angry reactionary, not a steady hand. As public speakers, we must always remember that it’s the unspoken messages that can be most lasting and powerful of all.

Win with honey

To be fair, a little later the same day, Hudak came off as cool,and relaxed and well informed. He needs to cultivate that persona more and the hot headed critic less. That old adage about winning more flies with honey than with vinegar still applies.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? If so, please contact me to discuss my public speaking training programs. I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

Sometimes the words don’t matter

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time you know that I talk a lot about speaking in public and how powerful it can be in a host of ways. Most of us struggle with finding the right words and using them in the most appropriate way to influence others, to share feelings and ideas. I train people to become better public speakers but I learned of a tragedy yesterday that got me thinking about how difficult it can be to speak at all under some circumstances and that sometimes words, for all their power, are inadequate.

When words don’t matter

A potential client mentioned that she was going to attend the funeral of a small child in Toronto and she didn’t know what to say to the parents. Of course, that got me thinking about when I’ve been in similar situations as well as the times in my life when I’ve faced major losses and what I needed from others. As I thought it through I realized that’s a time when words don’t really matter.

An unmovable force

I’m no expert in these areas and, fortunately, I’ve only had to deal with them a few times. But those experiences have taught me a great deal. And what I’ve learned is that those situations are so stark, so powerful, that nothing anyone can ever say will resolve them. The death of a loved one is an absolutely unmovable force that leaves us grasping to cope with its finality and our feelings of helplessness and isolation.

What grieving people need

And those feelings, I think, are our clue to providing comfort to people who have suffered a loss. As I thought about the feelings of those grieving parents I realized very clearly that the words we plan to say to them don’t matter. Just by being there with them, holding a hand, giving a hug tells that person more than anything we can say because what those grieving people need to know is that they are still part of our world, that they have people in their community who care about them and who share the pain of their loss.

A touch can say “I care”

We communicate in many ways and one of the strongest ways we communicate is through touch. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a touch is worth a thousand pictures. I think there is something primordial in us that needs the comfort of another human’s touch to get us through the darkest, most difficult times. There is something about a tender touch that can say, “I care . . . I share your feelings” And at times of loss the gentle touch of a hand or a comforting hug can provide support that can’t be measured.

More than anything you say

As a society, we’ve drifted away from a touching culture and, indeed, we have to be careful these days that our touches are not misunderstood. Common sense must rule. But the next time you have the opportunity to show your support of a friend or colleague who has endured a tragic loss, remember that just being there, listening and extending the hand of friendship will mean more than anything you may think you need to say.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to best develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today.  You’ll be glad you did!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area and across Ontario, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

Presentation training vs. Toastmasters

As a Toronto presentation trainer, I had a chuckle or two as I flipped through some slides on SlideShare. Jeanne Trojan, who is a presentation trainer in the Czech Republic, was sharing her opinions under the heading 3 Reasons I’m not a Toastmaster.

Very courageous

I thought it was very courageous of her to criticize an organization like Toastmasters. That’s a bit like criticizing motherhood, but I had to laugh at some of her slides, particularly the one about how many times a speaker said “Um”. I’ll devote a future post to that one. I have strong feelings about it.

Not for everyone

I’ve had prospective clients react with surprise when I’ve suggested they consider going to Toastmasters instead of hiring me. I guess they expect me to act in my own best interest and try to convince them to use my services, but my services aren’t for everyone, just as Toastmasters isn’t for everyone. Presentation training for business purposes and delivering a speech at Toastmasters is like comparing apples and oranges. They’re just not the same thing. For one thing, Toastmasters evaluators are a lot ’nicer’ than professional trainers. But there’s good reason for that.

A very positive thing

Professionals need to hear all the negatives a business audience will react to but not comment on. If that same kind of tough evaluation were used on Toastmasters speakers it would probably be counter-productive. Many people go to Toastmasters to learn to cope with their fear of public speaking. They need positive support and they find it, along with some gentle criticism. I’ve known people who went from terror to a love of presentation because of the support and guidance they’d received from Toastmasters. And that’s a very positive thing.

The bottom line
So what’s the bottom line? Well, Toastmasters is aimed at ordinary people who want to develop some speaking skills. Is it the best place for people who want to become professional speakers? I know some who came up that way, but it certainly isn’t a replacement for professional training. They both have their place.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues? I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that provide tools to best develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today.  You’ll be glad you did!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and presentation coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and throughout Ontario, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga. Service is also available outside of the GTA.

This one’s for Ray

If it weren’t for website copywriter Ray Litvak I might be out of business by now.

He phoned me

I first met Ray when he phoned me about a year-and-a-half ago and asked for some presentation training for a public speaking gig he was preparing. I’d been in business then for several years and, like so many other people, after all that time I was still barely keeping the lights on. I loved helping people to develop their public speaking skills but I was spending most – almost all – of my time and energy finding clients.

The grind was wearing

I’d done most of the usual things: networking, advertising, printing brochures, joining professional associations, developing and writing a website and blog, etc. but I was having difficulty justifying the time I was investing for the return it was bringing. And the grind of constant promotion was wearing me down. I wanted to help people with public speaking training, not search for them.

“Nobody knows you’re there”

As a website copywriter, Ray told me he was very impressed with my blogsite. In his words: “Google really likes you. You have a Ferrari blogsite but nobody knows you’re there because the site hasn’t been optimized for search engines. The content is great but the site is invisible.”

He worked on my site

He wanted to work on my site and I wanted to help him with his presentation skills and promote him as a website copywriter and search engine optimization (SEO) expert, so he went to work on my site last summer. Within a few weeks I received my first query and after that they began to arrive once or twice a week.

I’d tried to optimize

To put this in perspective, I’ve had a website for many years and up until Ray started working on it I think I’d had a total of about three inquiries, one of which turned into a paying client. It was literally costing me more to pay annual registration and hosting fees than I was making from my site. And I had tried, in my own amateurish way, to optimize my blog postings but it wasn’t helping.

Top five listings

So why the sudden change? Simple. Ray’s website copywriting skills took my ranking from somewhere deep in the bowels of Google to the top of Page One – usually to the top five listings for my key words. And the e-mails started arriving. And the phone started ringing. And the customers started engaging me.

Committed prospects

Ray was very specific about warning me that, as a website copywriter, he could drive traffic but once the call or e-mail arrived it would be up to me to close the sale. And I had no problem with that. Usually, by the time potential clients contacted me they were already committed prospects and all I had to do was assure them that I could deliver what I promised.

A new workshop

Because I’ve received so many inquiries from people who want public speaking training but can’t afford or cost justify one-on-one sessions, I’m developing a new half-day public speaking workshop. I already have contact information for more than 20 people who want this kind of training, so I’ve got a nucleus of interested people to start with.

Optimizing each page

I recently overhauled my blogsite because I could finally afford to do it and, as time allows, Ray and I are optimizing each page and blog post to increase my range of key words and my find-ability on Google and other search engines.

My business has a future

I’ve heard some of the horror stories about business people who invested in search engine optimization and were appalled with the results. I’ve had the exact opposite experience. My business now has a future because of my search engine rankings.

Long-term benefits

The other thing I hear about SEO is that it’s expensive. But if you hire a good online copywriter and you can justify the cost in any way, based on my experience, I’d say you will have an excellent chance of reaping significant long-term benefits.

Lots of books

For those who simply can’t justify the cost in any way, there are lots of books out there that will get you started and, if you’re diligent, you can reach the top of the search engines for your area of expertise. The downside is that it takes a ton of time and commitment. But if you can’t afford to hire a website copywriter who’s as skilled and honest as Ray, you’re probably better off relying on a book than a self-appointed expert who may take you half the distance.

Thanks, Ray

I didn’t mean to write this much. When I started I simply wanted to express my appreciation to someone that I respect a great deal and to say “Thanks, Ray” for what he’s doing for me and my business.

p.s. If you want to check out Ray’s services for yourself you can start with a visit to his website at www.writingwebwords.com.

Need a guest speaker?

If your group needs a skilled guest speaker or workshop leader, I’d like to help you. I provide a range of communications key note presentations and workshops. Please visit the presentations and workshops pages of this website and contact me to discuss how I can help you.

Need a presentation trainer?

Would you like help dealing with public speaking training and other communications issues?  I provide one-on-one presentation training and group public speaking training sessions that best provide tools to develop your public speaking skills. Contact me today. You’ll be glad you did!

About Thomas Moss

Thomas Moss is a speaker, writer and coach who provides business communications services, primarily in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and throughout Ontario, including Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Markham, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Brampton and Mississauga.