Sunday, April 10, 2016


I have set up this site to inaugurate the launching of my first course, "The Natural Speaker - the Art of Going From Fear to Fearless and Leaving Them Speechless," which will be followed by many others. 

This course has come about as a result of overwhelming interest in my book by the same title (you can find it here) available in print, ebook and audio formats. 

So peruse the curriculum modules and sign up for the course! 

For those who sign up through this site, I will also include a PDF copy of my book FREE!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

I Started a Firestorm on LinkedIn

I posted the following statement, "Fully 93% of communication is nonverbal. That does NOT mean that words are unimportant; it does mean that a great deal must be attributed to the messenger, rather than the message," and the responses I got were unbelievable: from complete misinterpretation to sarcasm to outright disagreement (with a bit of hostility thrown in for good measure).  It seems people on the whole are quite attached to their ability to make sounds with their mouths.  True, of all the creatures, we are "blessed" with the ability to speak, but I'm one who believes so much of communication is nonverbal.  Notice, I didn't say "talking" is nonverbal - but communication is so much deeper and more intricate and complex than the words we use, however eloquent. Click here to follow the thread.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The One That Won

He won the contest by virtue of his charm, his ebullience, his energy.  His body spoke to us, his arms expressively embracing us, his dancing eyes taking us all in, his smile completely disarming. Yet his words were almost unintelligible, springing from a foreign land, inflection difficult to our unaccustomed ears.  He did convey a few relevant morsels, that we are the presenters, that it was our essence that speaks to the audience, but his three minutes passed with us mesmerized by his captivating personality.

Fully 93% of communication is nonverbal.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

President of the Club

I have attained the distinguished post of president of our Toastmasters club.  While this was surely an honor, I would have preferred to be duly elected, rather than inheriting the post as VPE, and therefore next in line.  Still, on my inaugural evening, I was greeted with enthusiastic applause by the group, and proceeded to do my "thing."  Being who I am, I dove into my role head first, running a tight ship, paying close attention to all that was going on, and as I also had the role of General Evaluator for the evening, I gave the membership my usual thorough review of the evening.  I then waited for the secretary to render his usual thorough minutes the following day, but when I noticed that he had not mentioned my comments as General Evaluator, I decided to send an email to the membership as a refresher of the points I had made.

That's when my troubles began.

During my inaugural meeting, the Timer (a new member) asked if our club followed the practice of clapping when a speaker exceeded his or her time by 30 seconds.  I responded that we had not been doing that, but that I would make a unilateral decision that we should do so.

The criticism that returned in my email box was astonishing.  Two members who were absent during the meeting offered their opinions that not only should I have held a vote on such a change, but that the 30-second clap down was "rude" and "UNCIVIL" (quotation marks and caps their input).  Further, I was roundly chastised for making "so many changes" and that to invoke Toastmasters International rules was over the top.  Other people were slightly more circumspect, responding to the email with curtness or cagey impressions.

I felt mortified.  Tough as I am, I cried. What did I get myself into, I thought? Where is the support? Why did these people - especially the absent members - feel it so necessary to reprimand me?

I realize that I'm a bit too sensitive.  After all, I had never played president, and was prematurely thrown into this role.  I realize, too, that my own preference is to run a "professional" meeting, a training venue for proper presentations, proper speaking, with a good vocabulary and good use of the English language, with good manners, etc., while the vast preference among so many Toastmasters clubs is the casual, fun, easy-does-it experience.  I wonder if people are search for a social club.

Nothing is written in stone, I know.  But I would rather be efficient, and bring something to the table without so much resistance.  As a member of the club for the past three years, one would think that the membership already knows me and my style, and would have been prepared for my style of leadership.

I'm willing to loosen up, and have as much fun as possible, and in future meetings, will do just that.  However, I, too, want to grow in my experience at Toastmasters, and if I'm held down, that will cost me.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dressing The Part

When I joined Toastmasters in 1990, there was a dress code, of sorts, where the members dressed professionally to attend meetings, but most especially, if they were slated to give a speech.  It was unheard of in those days to stand before a group in shorts, T-shirt, and running shoes.  About 10 years later, the scene had changed entirely, with almost every club favoring the "casual" look.  I put that word in quotation marks because casual can, indeed, mean different things to different people.  The overall attitude was that Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops were okay at these meetings, not to mention shorts, jeans, and otherwise "comfortable" attire.  Comfortable is one thing; sloppy is another. 

Call me a stick in the mud, but I believe Toastmasters, as a professional organization, calls for professional attire.  Of course, "professional" can include plumbers and tree-cutters, but the general ambiance and purpose of Toastmasters is to foster confidence before groups, increase self-confidence, improve communication, especially with management, and learn to present well before groups.  I realize that one can be called upon to present before a group of plumbers, but for the most part, that is not what is meant by the abiding principals of Toastmasters.

Toastmasters ought to consider the image they present to the world, both within clubs, and when they reveal their affiliations.  Even birds don colorful and flamboyant plumage as a way to attract females to their nest, and announce that they are ready for mating.  There is all kind of evidence throughout the natural world that "beauty" is desirable, so dressing the part is encouraged.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Beware Perfection!

I am a perfectionist. 

I say this not to brag.  Indeed, lurking under the surface is great insecurity, the need to impress, the need to be taken seriously.  Although objectively one might see many skills, I nevertheless suffer from underachievement, and worse, "underconfidence." 

When I was 10, we moved away from my country of childhood to a totally foreign domain, where customs were new and, well, foreign.  In several instances, those new customs were none too kind.  I did not speak the language, and if you know anything about children of that age, they can be very cruel.  None took me kindly under his or her wing and walked me through the obstacles; no one coached me in correct pronunciation; no one taught me the ways of society.  Even my school teachers were cruel, as I recall, addressing me by my last name, not as "Miss So-and-So," just "So-and-So, did you do your homework," or "So-and-So, stand up and tell the class..." Even at graduation, my class teacher, while congratulating me on winning one of the prizes, still called me "So-and-So."  I may have been a child still, but it stung.  Even then.

Is it any wonder I've always tried to be perfect?

My striving for perfection certainly did not begin and end in Paris.  I then went to a boarding school, where I was even more isolated from any protection I might have enjoyed from my mother.  Mockery of my pronunciation was relentless.  I did not fit in, did not know the right games, the right words, did not have the right friends. 

One would think that overcoming childhood mockery would not involve swinging the pendulum in the opposite direction.  And yet, in the mind of a child, it may be what I tried to do.  The reasoning being, I'll show them!  If I excel, they won't have anything to ridicule.  Of course, life isn't so linear.

Time passed, and I left the boarding school, then moved to yet another foreign country as a budding teenager, again having to learn a new language, again trying to fit into a new society.  Again, my strategy was to try my best.  It didn't help that I was blessed with a very strict mother who had little sympathy for my travails.  I was forbidden to cry, and thus the stoic, stiff upper lip developed.

This might develop into a very long saga were it not for the bottom line: Not only does perfection not exist, it is probably a bad idea to seek as a goal.  It is not a panacea, but a source of anguish.  Since it is so illusive to begin with, all the striving and planning can only lead to frustration.  Like immortality.

Bending It Like Obama

President Obama is known for his polished public speaking skills.  Books have been written about his methods.  College courses invoke his style as representative of the ultimate goal in public speaking.  The media regularly broadcast soundbites as samples of his flawless speech making.

And yet ...

Is such perfection available to the rest of us?  Indeed, should such perfection be sought?

I propose a different slant.

It might be said that President Obama speeches compare to the performances on The Voice or American Idol, the operative word here being performances.  If one rehearses and memorizes, practices reading from the teleprompter for pace and cadence, anyone could sound like Obama.  Indeed, some might aspire to just that.  But what about a conversational tone?  In conversation, there is the occasional um, ah, and er; there is also a flight of ideas, jumping randomly from subject to subject, qualifiers, and apologies, so that speaking does not come across linearly.  Consider the following: "You know it.  I went into her office, just to kind of feel her out, because I didn't know if it was the right time to ask for a raise just then, but - and I knew it wasn't, but ...".  This is not the type of language one would put in a formal speech; but it is conversational.  Even President Obama, when speaking to reporters at a press conference, without the benefit of the teleprompter, is much more measured in his replies, hesitating at times, pondering his responses, all in an attempt to project the very best response appropriate to the occasion and to his politics.  The question is, what kind of speech are you trying to make? If you wish to emulate Churchill or Obama, by all means, craft the perfect speech, with perfect grammar and lofty, inspiring vocabulary; practice reading it until it is integral with your breathing; rehearse it until you have it down flat, and deliver your speech proudly from your chosen pulpit.  But if you are trying to connect with your audience on a personal level, be conversational and intimate; allow yourself to be less than perfect.  This is where authenticity shines.