New Business Theme Added to Rhetoric – The Public Speaking Game™

Florian Mueck and I are pleased to announce that the new Business theme has been added to the app version of Rhetoric – The Public Speaking Game™. Players can now choose to play one of three different themes (Classic, Family and Business) in one of six different languages (English, Spanish, French, Russian, German and Catalan).

If you are not familiar with Rhetoric – The Public Speaking Game™, it is the world’s first public speaking board game. Florian and I created it a few years back. The game has evolved from a physical board game (an image of the latest version is below) to the launch of the app to several upgrades to the app.

Gameplay is the same no matter which theme you choose. What distinguishes one theme from another is that each theme has 100 unique, theme-related cards: 50 Topics and 50 Challenges. Some examples are below.

Topics for the Family theme include the following:

  • Adoption
  • Dinner
  • Parents

Challenges for the Family theme include the following:

  • What is the best thing about being a child?
  • What is the most important lesson that you have learned from a family member?
  • When was the last time you apologized to someone?

Topics for the Business theme include the following:

  • Auditors
  • Big data
  • Project management

Challenges for the Business theme include the following:

  • Share your professional journey.
  • What advice would you give to someone who has been appointed to a leadership position?
  • You’re upset about long emails! Let them feel your anger.

That is just the tip of the iceberg. We have designed the game to challenge and inspire people. We have also designed it to help everyone realize that being able to speak well in public is something that anyone can learn. And learn to enjoy!

Rhetoric – The Public Speaking Game™ is being played in homes, businesses, schools and organizations around the world. If you would like to find out more about the app, you can watch this short demo video or click on the icon of your favourite app provider below.

Now, it’s your turn to speak.

Posted in Rhetoric - The Public Speaking Game | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 266) – Spring Washam

Spring Washam – American Meditation and Dharma Teacher

“When one thought ends, right before the next thought begins, there is a tiny gap called ‘now’. Over time we learn to expand that gap.”

— Spring Washam

Photo courtesy of
Posted in Motivation, Quotes for Public Speakers | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Public Speaking Fear Grid

It’s no secret that many people are afraid of public speaking. As Jerry Seinfeld has said, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two! This means, to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Even those who are not afraid of public speaking get nervous from time to time. Just remember the words of Mark Twain: “There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.”

Being nervous is completely natural. I am always a bit nervous whenever I have to speak in public. The adrenalin is flowing and I want to do a good job. But after years of practice, I am able to channel that nervous energy in a constructive way and the audience doesn’t see the nervousness. I relish the opportunity to speak at every occasion because it is another chance to pass a message to people and it is another chance for me to improve.

Having worked with thousands of people over the years, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon. While there are those who are extremely nervous in any speaking situation, more often than not, people tell me that they are only really nervous in certain specific situations. And those situations are usually based on two criteria: the number of people in the audience and how well the speaker knows those people.

I have set out different possibilities in the grid below.

The vertical axis on the left measures the number of people in the audience. It starts with one person—because it’s not public speaking if there is nobody in the audience—and goes to 1,000. The number 1,000 is purely arbitrary; it could have been 5,000. I just wanted a number that indisputably represents a large audience. The more important factor is orange line “a”.

Orange line “a” represents the number beyond which a “small” audience become a “large” audience for a speaker. It is entirely subjective. For some, an audience of 25 is a large audience; for others, an audience is not large unless there are at least 75 people. There is no single number and there is no wrong number; it depends on the speaker.

The horizontal axis represents how well the speaker knows the audience. At the extreme left, are people we know the best: family; friends; colleagues. At the extreme right are complete strangers.

Blue line “b” represents the dividing point between an audience that the speaker knows and an audience that the speaker doesn’t know. It cannot be pinpointed like orange line “a” because it is not easily quantified. A speaker might know the audience a little, but not well. He might know some of the people, but not all of them. Again, it is entirely subjective. In general, I think of blue line “b” as the dividing point between an audience where I know the majority of the people and an audience where the majority of people are strangers.

Thus, we have the following “speaking quadrants”:

  • Small audience / People you know
  • Small audience / People you don’t know
  • Large audience / People you know
  • Large audience / People you don’t know

People often tell me that they are fine when it comes to speaking to certain quadrants but not others. Some people enjoy speaking to an audience they know but are fearful of strangers; for others, it’s the opposite. Some people like large audiences but are very nervous in front of small, intimate groups. Others are fine up to 15 or 20 people but start to seize up in front of larger audiences.

Again, it is entirely personal. The question is: How can we deal more comfortable speaking in those quadrants that are problematic? The answer: Practice!

Public speaking is a skill like any other; the more you do it, the better you will become and the more comfortable you will feel. And, getting comfortable with public speaking in one quadrant should help you feel more confident in the others. Nevertheless, to be truly confident in all four quadrants, you need to speak in all four quadrants. Below are some suggestions about ways in which to get practice in each.

Small audience / People you know

  • Practice a speech in front of your family.
  • Practice a work presentation in front of a few colleagues.
  • Give a presentation to a longstanding client.
  • Give a toast to friends at a bar.
  • Give a speech at a Toastmasters club (assuming the number of participants constitutes a small audience for you and you know most of the people).
  • Host a dinner party and play Rhetoric – The Public Speaking Game™ with your friends.

Small audience / People you don’t know

  • Practice a work presentation in front of a colleagues from a different department whom you don’t know (or don’t know well).
  • Give a speech at a Toastmasters club (assuming the number of participants constitutes a small audience for you and you don’t know most of the people).
  • Strike up a conversation with people on the train or at the bus stop or on an elevator.
  • Try your hand at stand-up comedy at an open mike session.
  • Join a local business networking group and introduce yourself at an event.
  • Look for speaking opportunities on sites such as Meetup, Glocals and Eventbrite.

Large audience / People you know

  • Practice a work presentation in front of a few colleagues.
  • Give a toast to friends at a bar.
  • Give a speech at a Toastmasters club (assuming the number of participants constitutes a large audience for you and you know most of the people).
  • If you are a member of a church or other religious institution, do the readings at a service.

Large audience / People you don’t know

  • Offer to speak at an event in your community.
  • Offer to give a talk at your local chapter of an organization such as Rotary, Lions Club or the Chamber of Commerce
  • Give an educational talk at your local university.
  • Apply to speak at a conference on your area of specialty.
  • Try your hand at stand-up comedy at an open mike session.
  • Apply to give a TED or TEDx Talk.
  • Compete in a Toastmasters speech contest. If you are successful, you will have the chance to compete in front of progressively larger audiences.

Of course, there are other options in addition to those listed above. Please feel free to share your ideas in the Comments section below. The goal is to make a conscious effort to speak in those quadrants that make you the most uncomfortable. When we move toward the things that scare us in life, we experience our greatest personal growth.

So if you don’t like speaking in a certain quadrant, why don’t you make a plan to do so in the next two months? If you do, you are on your way to getting off the grid.

Posted in Nerves, Psychology of Public Speaking | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 265) – Neale Donald Walsch

Neale Donald Walsch – American Author and Speaker

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

— Neale Donald Walsch

Photo courtesy of Sarah Rozenthuler and Gil Dekel
Posted in Motivation, Quotes for Public Speakers | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Rhetoric – The Public Speaking Game™ featured in Toastmaster Magazine

My fellow public speaker, business partner and good friend Florian Mueck and I are proud to announce that Toastmasters International has published an article about Rhetoric – The Public Speaking Game™ in the October 2017 edition of its monthly magazine.

Readers of this blog will have seen posts about RHETORIC in the past: the physical board game; the launch of the app; news about upgrades to the app. It is great to see the game now being recognized by one of the world’s largest public speaking organizations.

Florian and I extend our thanks to Shannon Dewey who did a great job in putting the piece together. It was a pleasure working with her. Below is the interview portion of the article.


How did you meet?

Florian: In spring 2010, John and I met at a Toastmasters division conference in Porto, Portugal. He was the keynote speaker; I was one of the International Speech contestants. What I did not know was that he was also a competitor in his division that year. The competition was on!

John: (laughing) In the end, we each won our division, but neither of us placed at district. But we came away with something better: the foundation of what has become a great friendship and partnership. Today, besides Toastmasters, we work together with clients, co-author books and products, and enjoy more than a few beers together.

How can a game help those who fear public ­speaking?

Florian: Before joining Toastmasters, my heart wasn’t pounding when I had to speak in public; it was a galloping herd of 1,000 wild horses. Playing Rhetoric can help you tame those horses. Yes, you are giving speeches, but you are also playing a game with others. Gamification turns fear into fun.

John: The nerves never go away entirely. When you play ­Rhetoric, there is that same adrenaline rush every time it is your turn. But instead of days or weeks, there are only minutes between one speech and the next. We have seen incredible progress over the course of a single game. People who were nervous at the start are jumping onto the stage by the end of the game. They don’t even realize that they are sharpening their speaking skills.

Since you live in different countries, how did you ­collaborate on this project?

Florian: Usually when we work on specific issues, we use Google Docs. Next to our computer screens we place our smart phones and use the video function of Whatsapp. We see each other and work simultaneously on specific challenges. Once I edited a sentence that John was editing at the same time. He uttered those immortal words: “Get the cursor out of my face!”

John: We come from different countries, have different backgrounds and have different personalities. Just compare us onstage! But that is our strength. When we combine our different ­qualities, cool things happen. If we were a car, Florian would be the gas pedal and I would be the brake. Without the gas, you won’t move; without the brake, you are going to crash. With both, you can go anywhere.

Did you test the game on family and friends?

Florian: Feedback is a cornerstone of Toastmasters’ success. With the prototype, the board version and now the app, we have played with, and listened to, hundreds of people. Their feedback has been invaluable.

What future developments can we expect from Rhetoric?

John: Right now, the app can be played in six languages: ­English; Spanish; French; Russian; German; and Catalan. We plan to add more such as Mandarin, Italian and Portuguese. For themes, we already have Classic and Family (suitable for all ages). Future themes will include Business and Comedy. And we are always open to suggestions, so get in touch!


You can read the entire online version of the Toastmaster’s article here.

Seeing RHETORIC go from an idea to a prototype to a board game to an app on our smartphones and tablets has been incredibly rewarding. To everyone who has supported us along the way, Florian and I sincerely appreciate it.

And if you haven’t played RHETORIC yet, check it out.

Now, it’s your turn to speak.

Posted in Rhetoric, Toastmasters | Tagged , , | 1 Comment