Toronto in solidarity with Paris


My daughter Kristen was moved to draw this after the terrible events in Paris.

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Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 212) – William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats (1865 - 1939) Irish Poet

William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939) Irish Poet

“Think like a wise man, but communicate in the language of the people.”

— William Butler Yeats

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Lose the jargon

One of the podcasts that I listen to regularly is The Good Life Project hosted by Jonathan Fields. The Good Life Project is “a global movement that inspires, educates, connects and supports mission-driven individuals in the quest to live better, more engaged, connected and aligned lives.”


Jonathan Fields

Fields has interviewed a variety of fascinating people from all walks of life. He digs deep into what drives them and what it means to them to live a good life. His style is very Zen and his podcast is definitely worth listening to.

Occasionally, instead of interviewing someone, Fields will just riff on a topic for a few minutes. He has shared his thoughts on subjects such as creativity, entrepreneurship, the dark side of modelling success and the importance of unplugging from our computers and cell phones in order to fuel our creativity.

In the four-minute audio clip below, Fields talks about the importance of losing the jargon when we speak. It is a topic that is dear to my heart. Winston Churchill said that, in general, the simple words are the best words. And yet, time and again, I hear speeches or presentations that are loaded with jargon. That makes the speech convoluted and difficult to follow. Not something to which a speaker should aspire. 

Fields and I are in good company when it comes to avoiding jargon. Those who agree with us (in addition to Churchill as noted above) include George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway, TED Curator Chris Anderson, public speaking experts Carmine Gallo and Martin Shovel, and many others.

As an example, take one of my least favourite words in the English language: “synergy”. So many times I have heard someone talk about “improving synergies” in the organization without giving any concrete example of what should be done.

If a CEO tells employees to improve or enhance or leverage synergies without more, it’s pretty well a foregone conclusion that nothing is going to happen. However, suppose the CEO instead says: “Right. Salespeople, you need to get your figures to accounting within seven days of making a sale so that accounting can invoice the clients in a timely manner. Accounting, once you receive the figures from a salesperson, you have to invoice the clients within three working days and, if a payment is more than one week overdue, inform the salesperson so that he or she can follow up.” That is understandable. That is something on which people can act. And you know what? That will enhance synergies without the word ever having been mentioned.

Of course, if your audience is sophisticated with regard to your subject, you can be a bit more liberal with your use of jargon, acronyms, special terminology, etc. The key thing is to maintain your language at a level that ensure that nobody is left wondering what you just said!

In their terrific book, Made to Stick, the Chip and Dan Heath give a witty example of what John Kennedy might have said, had he spoken like so many business executives today, about his dream of sending a man to the moon:

Our mission is to become the international leader in the space industry through maximum team-centred innovation and strategically targeted aerospace initiatives.

What did Kennedy actually say?

Our mission is to “put a man on the moon and return him safely by the end of the decade.”

Your mission—should you choose to accept it!—is to think carefully about your message, think carefully about your audience and then deliver a presentation using language that will be understood and remembered.

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Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 211) – Demosthenes

Demosthenes (384 - 322 BC) Ancient Greek Orator and Statesman

Demosthenes (384 – 322 BC) Greek Orator and Statesman

“All speech is vain and empty unless it be accompanied by action.”

— Demosthenes

Photo courtesy of Sting / Wikimedia Commons
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An important lesson from an unbelievable baseball game

As I begin this post, my body is in Geneva, Switzerland. My mind is in Warsaw, Poland as I am about to board a flight to speak at an event there. But my heart is in Toronto, Canada.

I returned to Geneva from Toronto two days ago after spending Thanksgiving with my family. While there, I got caught up in baseball fever as the Toronto Blue Jays are back in the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. I was living in Toronto back then and I well remember Joe Carter’s epic walk-off home run to win the World Series for the Blue Jays for the second year in a row. (That game was played on 23 October 1993, one day after the birth of my oldest daughter, Alexandra Jaye Zimmer.) Continue reading

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Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 210) – Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee (1940 – 1973) Chinese-American Martial Arts Legend

“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there. You must go beyond them.”

— Bruce Lee

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Analysis of a speech by Dan Gilbert

Dan Gilbert is a Harvard psychologist who has spent a lot of time thinking about and studying happiness. He is the author of Stumbling on Happiness. The New York Times Book Review wrote, “Gilbert’s elbow-in-the-ribs social-science humor is actually funny. … But underneath the goofball brilliance, [he] has a serious argument to make about why human beings are forever wrongly predicting what will make them happy.” Continue reading

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Public speaking for success: An Interview

Dukascopy Bank is a Swiss online bank that provides trading services, particularly in the foreign exchange marketplace. One of its subsidiaries, Dukascopy TV, broadcasts shows on business matters.

Last year, I did an interview with Dukascopy on public speaking, and they recently invited me back for another chat. In the video below, I talk about:

  • Whether anyone can become a good public speaker;
  • Why storytelling is important in business presentations;
  • How to open and close a speech;
  • And more.

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Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 209) – G. K. Chesterton

G. K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936) English Writer and Philosopher

G. K. Chesterton (1874 – 1936) English Writer and Philosopher

“A man does not know what he is saying until he knows what he is not saying.”

— G. K. Chesterton

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How I became an international public speaker

Recently, I was interviewed by Monique Blokzyl on her monthly community call, mySpeakerBusiness. I very much enjoyed our discussion.

Monique is passionate about helping people who want to become professional speakers get a start. She has interviewed dozens of people over the years so that we can hear their experiences firsthand and learn some of the ideas that they have put into practice. If you would like to join the mySpeakerBusiness Facebook group, head over there and let Monique know a little bit about yourself.

The interview is below. In it, we discuss such matters as:

  • my educational and professional background;
  • how and why I decided to leave a good job at the World Health Organization to become a full-time speaker and trainer;
  • how I got my first client;
  • the pros and cons of working part-time while trying to build your speaker business;
  • why you should go outdoors to get some of your most creative ideas;
  • how to find what it is you want to talk about;
  • the reason why I give speeches and trainings;
  • the importance of having a good network, including on social media;
  • how blogging has helped my speaking business tremendously;
  • three (perhaps) non-obvious tips that will serve you well if you want to become a professional speaker (or even if you don’t!);
  • and lots more!

I hope you enjoy it.

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