About Me

Hello and welcome!

Like many people, I have always had a love for, and appreciation of, good public speaking.  Think back to a great speech that you heard.  Perhaps it was inspiring; perhaps it was heart-rending; perhaps it was hilarious.  Regardless of their subject-matter, all great speeches have one thing in common: they captivate their audiences for whom time momentarily stands still.

Unfortunately, all too often, public speaking is just . . . well . . . bad.  But it does not have to be that way.  With practice and commitment, anyone can improve their public speaking skills.  It is my hope that this blog will offer the right mix of advice and encouragement to help you do just that.

I have been speaking in public – in one way or another – for most of my life.  My parents always said I was talkative as a child, which I think is a nice way of saying that I never shut up!  Fate led me to law school where I developed a great interest in oral advocacy.  Twice I represented my law school in mooting competitions, and the second time saw my team win the national championship for Canadian law schools.

As a lawyer, I had the great fortune to work at a law firm that specialized in litigation.  I learned much from my senior colleagues, and they helped me to develop my confidence and my style.  After many years, I made the transition from private practice to public international law at the United Nations where I gained invaluable experience speaking before international audiences.

When it comes to public speaking, there is always room for improvement.  Since 2007, I have been a member of the International Geneva Toastmasters Club where I continue to work hard to hone my communication skills. My club is in District 59, which comprises 18 countries in Continental Europe.

I have had the good fortune to do well in several Toastmasters public speaking contests at the District level:

  • 2008 Speech Evaluation Contest – First Place
  • 2008 Humorous Speech Contest – First Place
  • 2009 International Speech Contest – Second Place
  • 2009 Table Topics (Impromptu Speaking) Contest – First Place
  • 2009 Humorous Speech Contest – First Place
  • 2010 International Speech Contest – Finalist
  • 2011 Speech Evaluation Contest – First Place
  • 2012 International Speech Contest - Second Place 
  • 2013 Speech Evaluation Contest (French) – First Place 
  • 2013 International Speech  Contest – First Place

While awards are nice, one of the greatest pleasures that I have had in Toastmasters comes from helping others gain confidence in themselves and seeing them make steady progress in the development of their public speaking skills.

My hope is that this blog will provide similar assistance to others.  So please stay awhile and have a look around the site; with luck you will find something useful or at least amusing.

Cheers!

John Zimmer

61 Responses to About Me

  1. Lower left back pain says:

    I really appreciate your commitment to help others by sharing your valuable experience in Public Speaking. There is a lot to read and learn which will take time but I just want to thank you for this great effort.

  2. Lower left back pain says:

    My wife and I are starting Toastmasters, and have been visiting to pick one. It makes for a great date!

  3. Hi John, thanks for making this blog. I love the quote at the top: “All the great speakers were bad speakers at first.” – Emerson. This is so true but I wonder how many people really believe that – I definitely thought great speakers were born that way. Anyway, some great articles here – thank you.

    • John Zimmer says:

      Thanks very much for the comment, Mkmee. Much appreciated. Without question, there are some people who have a natural talent for public speaking. But they are far and few in between in my view. The vast majority of great speakers worked at it.

      I took a look at your blog and will definitely spend some time there as I had very bad lower back pain (right side) last year. My sacrum is bent up more than normal and was pinching a nerve. But an X-Ray, physio, regular exercise and lots of water have helped enormously. Still, I will have a look at your posts.

      Cheers!

      John

  4. sim says:

    Congratulations on your success! Many many more to come!

  5. Nabeesa says:

    What an amazing human being you are! I really appreciate your commitment to help others by sharing your valuable experience in Public Speaking. There is a lot to read and learn which will take time but I just want to thank you for this great effort.

  6. Majella says:

    Just stumbled upon this blog. With the business I am in at the moment, I was asked to speak in front of a small crowd (200 or so) at a conference. I wouldn’t do it. For 2 whole years I was been asked to tell my story at these conferences. Last year I actually did it!! I couldn’t believe it myself. I wasn’t great but at least I had done it. It is amazing what a person can do with a bit of confidence. I was so lucky I had like minded people who believed more in me than I did in myself.

    • John Zimmer says:

      Thank you, Majella, for the comment and congratulations on your success. I wish you will with your future speaking engagements.

      John

  7. Ariel says:

    Hi John,

    I am a student of primary school. I always sing loudly in front of many people, can this be useful for my speaking before many people?

    Please write back. Thank you.

    Ariel

    • John Zimmer says:

      Hi Ariel,

      Thank you very much for the message. Congratulations on your singing. Not many people have the confidence to get up and sing in front of others and I commend you for your efforts.

      I think that singing in front of people can definitely be beneficial for your public speaking. (1) You are gaining experience in standing up in front of an audience. And the more experience you have, the more comfortable you will be. (2) You are also learning how to project your voice. It is important for speakers and singers to project their voices so that their audiences can hear them. Of course, you don’t want to be too loud. You need to be able to add variety to your voice (speaking more softly or more loudly, pausing, etc.) to keep it interesting for your audience. (3) Finally, you are learning about preparation. You have to know the words to the songs, you have to hit all the notes, you have to be familiar with the venue and the musicians, and you have to learn how to handle unexpected incidents (like noises or the lights not working correctly or lots of other things). The same applies to public speaking.

      So yes, I think that your singing will be very useful for your speaking. I wish you much success with both!

      Kind regards,

      John Zimmer

  8. Hi … John, surely one of the best speakers I’ve heard … Amazing job … Love your message and your insight. I want to be like you someday.

  9. BIlli Josh says:

    Hey John,

    Came across your blog today. Very interesting one and congrats for all your achievements. I really got inspired by this one.

    Will be waiting for your further updates.

    Thanks,
    Josh

    • John Zimmer says:

      Thanks very much for the comment, Josh. Glad you like the blog. I look forward to seeing you drop by in the future.

      John

  10. betuel95 says:

    Hi John,

    first I want to say that I am from germany and my english isn’t that good :)

    At school we had to analyse the speech of Abraham Lincoln: The Gettysburg Address. At the beginning I didn’t understand the speech but then I found a translation of this speech which helped me a bit more.

    Anyway I couldn’t analyse it …

    Then I search on google for examples for an analysis and I found this site where you analyse the speech.
    I took some ideas of yours and wrote it into my analysis. In the english lesson I read out the text.
    My teacher was really impressed and she said that she liked my structure very much and also the interpretation. I was soo happy…

    So I want to say thank you because without your help I couldn’t do it…

    Thank you :D

    Betül

    • John Zimmer says:

      Dear Betül,

      Thank you very much for the comment. Du kannst sehr gut englisch schreiben und ich glaube dass du sprichts auch gut englisch. Leider, ist mein Deutsch nicht so gut aber wann mann spricht langsam, dann kann ich verstehe.

      I am very happy that my analysis helped you with Lincoln’s speech. I can understand how it would be a difficult speech for non-native speakers. I wish you continued success with your studies.

      Tschüss!

      John

  11. Hey John,

    My wife and I are starting Toastmasters, and have been visiting to pick one. It makes for a great date!

    Continued success my friend.

  12. Pervilhac Cyril says:

    Bonjour John,

    Thanks for your intro. on public speaking at WHO and for inviting us to your blog that I’d like to join.

    Best, Cyril

    • John Zimmer says:

      Thank you, Cyril. It was a pleasure working with you and your colleagues. You can subscribe to the blog by email or RSS feed in the right-hand column.

      John

  13. Phyllis Zimmer says:

    Hi John,

    Finally got around to looking up your blog. Really impressed. It proves that even at 77 years old I can still learn how to be a better communicator. Congratulations, John.

    Love,

    Mom

  14. Ms. Amal says:

    Greetings John,

    I will keep your blog in my favorites list since I need to read and improve my public speaking skills. I am a Toastmaster from Saudi Arabia. I joined TM 2006 then I stopped for 2 years. I am back now and was the winner of the international speech at club and area :) (Like to share)

    I appreciate your commitment to help others, and sharing your experince here. Thank you very much.

    Have a good day, Month, Year and Life

    Ms. Amal Othman

    • John Zimmer says:

      شكراً جزيلاً لرسالتك! أنا درست اللغة العربية و سفرت مرتين قي السعدية

      I am glad that you enjoy the blog and look forward to having you visit in the future. I also congratulate you for returning to Toastmasters and for your succes in the speech contests! Mabrouk wa mazh’allah!

      My best wishes to you.

      John

      • Ms. Amal says:

        Wow, that really sounds good. I speak English and you speak Arabic.
        We have now Arabic Toastmasters. All Manuals were translated to Arabic :)

        Keep the good work John.
        Hope to meet you.
        آمال عثمان
        :)

  15. Roz Bennetts says:

    Hi John, thanks for making this blog. I love the quote at the top “All the great speakers were bad speakers at first.” – Emerson. This is so true but I wonder how many people really believe that – I definitely thought great speakers were born that way. Anyway, some great articles here – thank you.

    • John Zimmer says:

      Roz, thanks for the kind words. I am glad that you enjoy the blog. In a world of 6 billion people, there are undoubtedly some who are born with a gift for public speaking. However, I do believe that Emerson got it right. Most great speakers are made, not born. It takes time, effort and commitment. We might not all be able to join the ranks of the truly great speakers; however, I do believe that becoming an effective speaker is something that is within reach of anyone who applies himself or herself.

      Cheers!

      John

  16. Roz Bennetts says:

    Hi John, thanks for making this blog. I love the quote at the top “All the great speakers were bad speakers at first.” – Emerson. This is so true but I wonder how many people really believe that – I definitely thought great speakers were born that way. Anyway, some great articles here – thank you.

  17. The Wall Street Journal published an article indicating that the top 10-12% highest paid professionals today are effective communicators – meaning oral presentations. As a business owner it was suggested to me to join Toastmasters to learn better listening and managerial skills. Although I CRIED through my first three 5-7 minute speeches (and was tagged with 19 ah’s and um’s — filler words), I stayed with the communication and leadership program. Now, as an active member of 23 years now, I have learned to shift the nervousness into energy to deliver highly-tailored, high-content programs. When we feel better about ourselves, it raises our self-esteem, attracting opportunities and promotions!

    -Sheryl Roush, Distinguished Toastmaster, 3rd female Accredited Speaker honored by Toastmasters International out of 4.3 million members
    President/CEO, Sparkle Presentations, Inc.

    • John Zimmer says:

      Sheryl, thanks very much for sharing your story with us. It is a testimony to your commitment. I completely agree that one cannot overestimate the importance of being a good communicator. And you are a great example of something that Ralph Waldo Emerson said (and that is the tagline for this blog): “All the great speakers were bad speakers at first.”

      Thanks again.

      John

  18. Josh says:

    Congratulations on all your accomplishments, you are one gifted guy. Seriously you should start writing books because we all can do well with a little bit of what you teach. Surely public speaking is a way to measure one’s confidence and charisma.

    • John Zimmer says:

      Thank you, Josh, for the kind words. They are appreciated. In fact, I am in the process of working on something right now. My goal is to finish it by next year. I took a look at your blog. Very impressive. I liked your posts on “Freeze, Fight or Flight” and the public speaking tips. Thanks again!

      • ben parsons says:

        Hi John, long time fan of yours :-)

        I liked that you spotted “Freeze, fight or flight” in Josh’s blog, because most people only learn about fight or flight; yet freeze is the zone in which we get stuck in our habits, be they physical or rhetorical. Freeze is what happens when the gazelle goes limp to anaethetise itself as the cheetah pounces; but it is also what happens to us as we watch a car crash, a person trip, or our boss bearing down red-faced towards our desk.

        When we fail to shake out the freeze response, we build up layers of armouring, which creates stuck habits and body use. These in turn can be spotted in a speaker, and liberated by a speaking coach.

        Ben P

        • John Zimmer says:

          Hi Ben,

          Thanks for the great comment. Your image of having to break through “layers of armouring” is, unfortunately, well chosen. But it is always rewarding to see people pushing beyond their limits (real or imagined). That’s why I think public speaking can be such an ennobling experience for people.

          Cheers!

          John

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  20. Hashim says:

    Hi John. Nice to see a blog on public speaking. I myself have a blog on Confidence Building using body language and I am planning to write about Voice Training soon. As a good public speaker yourself, If you have some tips on Voice training, blog to let us know. I have been trying out Roger Love’s training and it is quality stuff. Any tips?

  21. LauraJ says:

    Thank you for the vote of confidence, John. It did not go as badly as I feared, at least I did not catch anyone sneaking a peak at their watches. I suspect UK expats in Spain are not an overly critical crowd. They tend to have moved to Tenerife to enjoy a more relaxed life after all. At least that’s how I plucked up enough courage to stand up! It worked for me. ;)

  22. LauraJ says:

    I am intrigued. Wish I’d seen the Letterman skit.

    As a very nervous public speaker who is soon due to speak to a group of Tenerife business owners I would like to think that I may make time stand still for them although I fear that may not be a good thing if it involves them looking to often at their watches.

    • John Zimmer says:

      Hi Laura. Thanks for the comment. The Letterman skit brings back lots of good memories. It was a lot of fun to do. I wish you much success with your presentation to the Tenerife business owners. There is no reason why you cannot make time stop for them … in a good way!

      John

  23. Great article and very inspiring. I agree that public speaking can be learnt by anyone and takes a little persistence and determination by those of us not naturally gifted or confident enough to go out and give speeches off the bat.

    Our fears and anxieties play a massive part when attempting to deliver great public presentations. There are thoughts we hold in out belief systems that we must overcome and deal with along with the practice and commitment.

  24. Adrian says:

    Hello John,

    A very good article, like those you wrote before. I love the way you infuse enthusiasm in what you say. Keep on the good work

    Only the best,

  25. Hello John,

    Nice site. I try to explain to people how Toastmasters can help people with their public speaking and communication skills but so few think they need it.

    Clearly you have skill to place at the District level. I shall be happy to forward this site for our members to get a few pointers from.

    Thanks.

    • John Zimmer says:

      Hi Dennis,

      Thanks very much for the kind words. I’m glad that you like the blog and appreciate that you are sharing it with your members. I had a quick look at the Boaters TM site. It is very well laid out and full of good resources.

      It is indeed unfortunate that more people don’t make an effort to work on their public speaking skills. With a bit of effort, anyone can improve, and noticeably.

      Cheers!

      John

  26. Where the hell was this oral hilarity when we were stuck up on stage at the Law School Talent Show floundering through our Letterman skit!!!! (So NOW you develop some comedy timing!!!)

    +1

    • John Zimmer says:

      Oscar! This could only be you! The Letterman skit will go down in the annals of talent shows. (Whether down in flames, is another question.)

  27. Oscar Sala says:

    Where the hell was this oral hilarity when we were stuck up on stage at the Law School Talent Show floundering through our Letterman skit!!!! (So NOW you develop some comedy timing!!!)

    How you been buddy? Get in touch with me…its been way too long!

    Oscar

    • John Zimmer says:

      I only started this blog in the hopes that you would one day read it and get it touch! Great to hear from you; will follow up by email.

  28. Cédric says:

    Hey John,

    Great blog and congrats for entering the AllTop.com speaking category. Your writing wil definitely become my main resource for developing better skills in public speaking :)

    Looking forward to seeing you at the next club session !

    Cheers,

    Cédric

  29. Abu Sofian says:

    John, definitely one of the best speakers Ive heard.. Amazing job.. Love your messages and your insight. I wish to be like you someday. :)

  30. Hello John,

    You are simply the Greatest! I learned a lot from you.

    Thank you,

    Daniel

  31. Colin McLean says:

    John,

    As a courtesy message: I have added a link to your blog from my new home on the web at presentationworks.me.

    You’ll find it under ‘Presenting Blogs’ in the sidebar (on every page therefore). I trust this is in order, but please let me know if anything’s missing or wrong.

    Of course, should you be so minded, I’d be delighted for things to be reciprocal, but that’s not any kind of pre-condition!

    Best wishes,

    Colin

    Colin McLean, Director
    Presentation Works Ltd. – Business Presentations Specialist
    Graingers Barn, Six Mile Bottom, CB8 0UN

    +44 1638 570447
    +44 7894 738431

    http://www.presentationworks.me
    http://www.presw.com
    http://www.youtube.com/presentationworks
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/colinwdmclean
    twitter.com/colinwdmclean twitter.com/presentationwks

  32. Mike Pillinger says:

    Dear John,

    I have been away on mission and just back to the office in Amman. Just read your departure message. Just to wish you all the best of luck in your future activities.

    Best Regards,

    Mike

  33. Making it stick, Credibility – I do not see how this is “credibility” but I love his speech and also of course the other speeches you offered from Ted, I’d like to know more, for exemple, who is speeking in the 02 video!

    How you add those videos to the side of the blog?

  34. Giving confidence to others, that is the goal I have also, with my blog and in my personal storytelling or toastmaster speeches, or writing a book, too. Nothing could be, I think, a bigger gift, as inspiring more confidence.

  35. Jared says:

    Hey John,

    I couldn’t find any other way to contact you. I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and read my blog.

    As always…

    Move mountains!

    *Jared

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