Link by Link and Tweet by Tweet

This article appeared in the April 2010 issue of Toastmaster Magazine. The issue was devoted to social media and the editors asked me to write a piece about how social media can be used to enhance one’s public speaking and presentation skills. The result is below. Hope you find it useful.
Even if you are not a member of Toastmasters, you can access all back issues of Toastmasters Magazine once they ae posted here on the Toastmasters website. They contain terrific articles about all aspects of public speaking.

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Link by Link and Tweet by Tweet

by John Zimmer

During a 1996 speech on the Internet, then U.S. President Bill Clinton famously remarked, “When I took office, only high energy physicists had ever heard of … the Worldwide Web. … Now even my cat has its own page.”
Fourteen years later, the Internet is an omnipresent and indispensable feature in the lives of millions. Used wisely, it can enhance our public speaking skills and our Toastmasters experience.
At first blush, this might seem counterintuitive as public speaking takes place in front of people, not a screen. But there are numerous ways in which the Internet can help.
Breaking Down Borders
I am a member of the International Geneva Toastmasters in Switzerland. My District, No. 59, comprises clubs from 18 countries in Continental Europe. I have many Toastmasters friends whom I have met at District Conferences. As we live all over Europe, getting together for a regular cup of coffee is not feasible. Enter the Internet.
Tim May, a former engineer and chief scientist at Intel, once noted that national borders are not even speed bumps on the Internet. Through social networking, I stay in touch with my friends and exchange advice on different public speaking matters.
For example, through Google Documents – a platform that allows people to collaborate on a single document – I and other District 59 members were able to help the District’s 2009 International Speech Contest winner, Peter Zinn. When Peter worked on drafts of speeches in preparation for last year’s Inter-District contest at the Convention, we were able to give him feedback on those drafts.
You Too Can YouTube
To become a better public speaker, there is no substitute for practice. Nevertheless, watching videos of other speakers is a great way to pick up techniques and ideas.
In this regard, youtube.com is a goldmine. Search “Toastmasters” or “speech” and you will have enough viewing material for weeks. You can also post your own videos. I have put a few of my District Contest speeches on YouTube and have received great feedback. Another excellent site for speakers is TED.com where you can watch some of the most fascinating speeches on a variety of topics.
Of Links and Tweets
The Internet is very much a two-way street. People no longer go online just to get information; they want to contribute. Thus has the Internet become the biggest social networking forum on the planet. Two sites that I use regularly are LinkedIn.com and twitter.com.
LinkedIn has hundreds of public speaking groups, including one run by Toastmasters International (with, at last count, just under 10,000 members). As a member, you can participate in online discussions about speaking issues, ask questions or seek advice, post notices of public speaking events, look for work or a speaking engagement, and much more.
With Twitter, you can follow (and be followed by) thousands of people around the world. Messages are exchanged in real time, 140-character bursts. You can group the people you follow any way you like. Thus, I have a group for people who “tweet” about public speaking. Through Twitter, I share and receive public speaking tips and links to interesting articles.
Blah, Blah, Blog
A year ago, I decided to try blogging and created mannerofspeaking.org – a blog devoted to public speaking issues. The experience has been rewarding. I have readers from around the world and feel that through my blog – which is a mix of serious and light articles on public speaking – I am able to give back something to others. My blog is linked to my LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts so my posts appear there as well.
It has been said that a blog is like a shark – it has to keep moving or it will die. For those considering starting a blog (on whatever topic), you must be committed to (1) posting quality content that people will want to read and (2) posting regularly.
Pay it forward
I have two pieces of advice for anyone about to embark on a social networking foray of their own.
First, do not spread yourself thin. There are thousands of social networking sites and new ones appear every day. It is virtually – pun partially intended – impossible to join them all and maintain a meaningful presence. There are not enough hours in the day and who wants to be anchored to a computer? Be selective and focus on a few sites.
Second, pay it forward. There is nothing wrong with using the Internet to improve yourself, personally or professionally. But look for ways in which to help others by, for example, responding to questions that they post. What goes around comes around.
So there you have it. A few ideas on how social networking can enhance your Toastmasters experience. All this and much more is only a click away!

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

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Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International