Posts Tagged ‘Public Speaking Training Toronto’

How to talk to a dying friend

This post is dedicated to my dear friend David, who passed away in Toronto on June 3, 2012

All the public speaking training and presentation training in the world does not prepare you for talking to a dying friend; at times like that you just have to find what you hope is going to work and use it.

I did my best

We got the call about 5pm on Sunday, June 3. David, my sister-in-law’s life partner, who had been unconscious for more than a week, was about to be taken off life support. An hour later I entered his room at the Toronto General Hospital to support her but I ended up doing my best to support both of them during a very difficult time.

That voice . . .

David had always been a slight man but the voice that had come out of that 135-pound frame had commanded attention. He’d had the voice I’d always wanted and the kind of projection that I encourage my public speaking workshop participants to develop. He’d have been a natural for radio but, interestingly, although his first job was with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, he never appeared on air, preferring the sales area, and he continued to work in sales with many companies throughout his 50-year career.

Silent

It was strange to see him lying there, connected to machines and silent. Because David was never silent. He l-o-o-o-ved (that’s the way he liked to pronounce it) to boom that voice at whomever was present and regale them with stories about the years he spent in New York, about his family members’ achievements and, of course, about his beloved Toronto Blue Jays.

Something he never said

But there was something he never told those people. No one knew that David had overcome a very serious stammer by using a very simple technique that works magic. He had discovered that if he paused before he spoke he could control his stammer.

No one heard

It was the very same technique that I teach in my public speaking training sessions to help speakers recover when they stumble during a presentation. He had perfected this technique to a point where no one heard the pauses and, during the rare occasions when the stammer slipped in, he was able to recover within a second or two.

Now he was silent

But now he was silent, a tube pushing air into his lungs, monitors graphing his bodily functions. We agreed that it was not a situation David would want to be in for long and so, after agonizing, my sister-in-law permitted his caregivers to turn the machines off and let nature take its course.

“Just keep talking”

His nurse came in and out a few times as she disconnected the machines that had been keeping him alive for more than a week. On one of those trips she smiled and said, “Just keep talking to him. He can hear you.” We looked at each other and my sister-in-law told him that the Blue Jays had won their most recent game, then turned to me and said, “I don’t know what to say . . .”

What should we say?

I knew how she felt. What should we say? I took his hand and thought about what would give him comfort in the final moments of his life and started. I don’t remember my exact words, but I do know that I told him how proud I was to have had him for a brother-in-law. I thanked him for taking such good care of my wife’s sister for the past 25 years. I said I knew his biggest concern would be for her and that he could rest easy because my wife and I would look after her for him. I reminded him that he had brought a great deal of comfort to others during their difficult times and now he could just relax and rest easy during his.

An audience of one

It was hard to know exactly when to stop talking, but I continued for as long as I thought he could hear me, at one point even saying that I would “try” to sit through a Blue Jays game for him (he knew I didn’t care much for baseball). In short, I tried to do what any speaker should do for any audience. I simply tried to think of what was most important to him and express it in a way that would comfort him. Comfort was the value I needed to provide to this audience of one.

A difficult subject

Death is a difficult subject for most of us, although it gets a little easier as we age and its inevitability becomes more obvious. I’ve talked before on this blog about talking to bereaved family and friends and now I’ve discovered, through personal experience, how to talk to loved ones who are in their final stages of life.

Farewell, my friend

I wish David well on his journey and I sincerely hope that the words and thoughts I shared with him gave him some comfort in his final moments.

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.

Public speaking’s just a conversation with a group

It’s very rare that a person is afraid to have conversation with just one or two other people, particularly if they know them well. So what’s the difference when that conversation happens to be between one person and a hundred or one person and a thousand?

What makes us nervous?

Other than the numbers, which at first may seem staggering, there really isn’t much difference, not if you’re doing an effective presentation that includes the audience and provides valuable information. What is it about us that makes us nervous as soon as we’re asked to speak in front of more than three or four other people? I’ve had many clients say, “I’m not nervous at all when I’m speaking to a small group but put me in front of a full audience and I’m terrified.”

It often goes back to childhood

When I explore the reasons for this terror, I find that it often goes back to childhood, when someone – particularly someone older –  made a disparaging remark or made the child feel small. I’ve had clients who were chastised for speaking out in class or in other situations where they were expected to be quiet.

Memories can follow us

These memories can follow us to adulthood whether we want them to or not. And it’s only by identifying them, acknowledging how they affect us and viewing them from the perspective of a mature adult that we can begin to overcome them. And of course, the length of time it takes to overcome these public speaking issues is going to depend, in large part, on just how serious the incident was that created them in the first place. I like to explore these issues when I do public speaking training because I find it’s a great place to start building the confidence necessary to become an effective public speaker.

You have nothing to fear

Whether you pursue public speaking training or not, when it’s your turn to speak to a group, remember, speaking to a crowd is the same as speaking to an individual. The only difference is the numbers. If you have something of value to share, if you have something that drives you and motivates you to stand up and share what you know with other people, you have nothing to fear. It’s no different than sharing that same information with your neighbour over the back fence. Think about it. Our irrational fear of public speaking really is irrational.

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.

In public speaking, you can’t please them all

I saw a wonderful speaker at a CAPS (Canadian Association of Professional Speakers) conference recently. The speaker’s message was about believing in one’s self, regardless of what anyone and everyone around you was saying and it’s particularly poignant for anyone involved in public speaking.

I’m a believer

I’m a strong believer in that message and I promote it myself. But the speaker told an interesting story that reveals the foibles of human nature. She said that she had done a presentation at a conference one day, a standard presentation that she had done many, many times before. As is the norm at a conference, she was given the evaluation forms that each member of the audience had filled out.

She had provided value

Ninety-nine percent of those evaluations were glowing, gushing, telling her what a wonderful speaker she was, how inspired they had been and how much value she had provided. She was delighted with them all. Except one. And that one was a negative, disparaging attack on her as a public speaker, what she spoke about; even how she wore her hair.

One in a crowd

In spite of those 99 wonderful, glowing evaluations, she was distraught that someone had disliked her so much as a public speaker. She said she brooded about it for days until she finally spoke to her husband and he drew her attention to the obvious. “Look,” he said, “you had 99% of that audience in the palm of your hand and you had one person who criticized you, one out of that entire crowd.”

We can beat ourselves up

He then reminded her that her brand was based on optimism and believing in one’s self. And as she thought it over she reluctantly agreed that she did do a good presentation, training people in the room to think positively about themselves. As a public speaker, she had provided significant value. She also recognized that even those of us who are eternal optimists can beat up on ourselves if we allow certain people to bring us down.

Someone’s not going to like you

If you’re going to do a presentation, training or any kind of public speaking, you’re going to discover that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Someday, someway, someone is not going to like you. If you’re going to speak to crowds, it’s going to happen. And when it does, I suggest you remember the professional salesperson’s mantra, ‘Some do . . . some don’t . . . so what . . . Next?’

The luck of the draw

Just because one or two people in the audience don’t like you doesn’t mean you’ve done a bad job. It’s just the luck of the draw. So lick your wounds, revisit your material and, if you don’t find anything wrong with it, find another public speaking opportunity so you can continue to share your value.

Had a similar experience? If you’ve developed strategies for dealing with negative comments to positive presentations, please share them in the Comment section below.

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.