Pathways to Improving Yourself as a Speaker

Public Speaking (00:17):

Welcome to Leadership Speaking Radio. This is episode number 26. Our topic today is pathways to improving yourself as a speaker. I’m your host, Dr. Laura Penn professional speaker, coach, industry disruptor and founder of the leadership speaking school. We’re based in Switzerland and we train global leaders and change makers how to speak in public. To find out more about the work we do transforming leaders from the inside out, go ahead and visit our website at Now let’s get straight into our topic.

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I woke up this morning with a fire in my belly. You see, I’ve been bumping into clients in my one and a half hour online training sessions, my four and a half hour masterclasses and my VIP intensive training, who are hungry to rapidly and radically up-skill in speaking. You see these folks know that in order to be competitive in their next job, because many people are in transition right now, in order to be competitive and to show up as the best versions of themselves in these new positions and/or to elevate themselves in existing positions, because they want to take themselves higher and go further with their communication skills. They know that they need to do this radical up-skilling. They know that these speaking skills are essential to their success. So a question that I’m getting on a daily basis at this point is Dr. Penn, what are the pathways to improve myself as a speaker? In other words, what are the maps? How do we get from point A right here, to point B C, D E all the way to Z so that we can improve and elevate ourselves as speakers?

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Well, that’s what this show is about Folks. Answering that question, giving you three examples of pathways to follow, to get to that golden destination of radically improving yourself as a speaker. But before I get into that pathway description, I want to start something new in this podcast. I want to introduce a word of the day, and this is a celebration of words. I happen to be a total word nerd. I love words. I love saying them. I love learning about them, I love reading them, and I want to bring this into the fabric of these podcasts to bring you into the world of fabulousness when it comes to words. So today’s word is endurance. And according to the Oxford Languages Dictionary, which is online, this word endurance is a noun and it means two things: On the one hand, it means the ability to endure an unpleasant or difficult process without giving way. The second definition is that endurance means the capacity of something to withstand, wear, and tear. Really interesting, cool descriptions of what that word endurance means. And I choose this word on purpose. Yes, because this word really hangs in well with today’s theme: pathways to improving yourself as a speaker, because here’s the big idea Folks… Learning a skill like public speaking is not a short term, small, do it as fast as you can trick-up-your-sleeve scenario. No. Learning a skill like public speaking is like learning the skill of how to ski, learning the skill of how to play the piano, learning the skill of how to bake a perfect cupcake. These are things that take time. They have a lot of endurance embedded in them, and they happen with grit, being proactive and going for it. So I thought that it would be a really fun segue to talk about these pathways, to set it up by telling you about how much endurance you need for this process.

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Yes, this is a roll-your-sleeves-up situation. So let’s go. The first pathway I will call the long game. This is about buckling down and anticipating that you are going to endure a long journey. There will be peaks, and there will be troughs. There will be smiles and there will be tears. There will be joy. There will be pain. You will be living your life in contrasts, happy, sad, et cetera, et cetera. This is about understanding that this is a journey that will take a long time to get through, but you’re in it to win it. You’re in it to go for it. So what are the elements? I’m going to run through kind of a laundry list of elements that are connected to this long game. So take out your pen and write these things down. Number one, buy a journal, a journal that you love, the touch of the smell of the look of a journal that you are going to be carrying with you everywhere, either in your pocket or in your bag, wherever you go, so does your journal. This is your connector to this world. This is your public speaking journey buddy. Here you write down cool words that you hear, quotes that you want to remember, ideas of people that you saw, speaking experiences of you speaking, where things went well, and less well, this is the collection point for your experiences on this pathway. The second point in the long game is to join Toastmasters International. This is one of the world’s best kept secrets. I am not kidding you. How many times do I say to people that they should join Toastmasters? And they’re like what’s Toastmasters? And I say, go to and find out. What you need to know is that this is an extraordinary resource and it is at your fingertips. If you live in any big city in the world, there is going to be one or more Toastmasters clubs.

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This is an international leadership and public speaking organization with over 300,000 members worldwide, over 17,000 clubs. You get the picture. Every month for an average of two times a month. Clubs have meetings and these meetings invite people from far and wide, different fields, different demographics to come together and do what they love to do at Toastmasters, which is speak in public. You have different speaking projects that you go through. If you become a member, you practice speaking at every opportunity you say yes to taking on roles, like being the “ah” counter, which is a designated role in every Toastmasters meeting, where somebody is counting, how many filler sounds or filler words “like”, “ah”, “you know”, those sounds. Somebody’s counting those. And if you take on that role, that’s your job. You’re counting those filler words and filler sounds making you really tuned-in to how people use language.

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And in these meetings, you are rubbing shoulders with other people who have the same aspirations as you. So this is really a perfect destination. If you’re in the long game for public speaking, join a Toastmasters group near you. Look them up on that website I gave you, You can find your nearest club, do a little bit of tourism first to find the club that suits you. Every single club has their own personality and you’ll fit in with one or more of them. If you want to be really ambitious and you’re really into this long game, then you should join more than one club. You should participate in contests, which elevate you to a much higher level of working and enduring the public speaking journey. And anytime you travel, you should go. I go to Toastmasters clubs around the world. This was my personal experience.

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I did this for years. Anytime I was in a new city, I’d look up the nearest Toastmasters club and I’d go and visit. And I’d be welcomed there as a guest and I’d see how they did things. And I took on different roles. And I even set up my own Toastmasters group in Nyon, Switzerland called the International Toastmasters Club of Nyon, a really amazing club, still running strong today. And if you’re in the region, go visit that one Folks. That’s a really great club, lots of amazing high level speaking going on. So that’s part two of being immersed in the long game. Other things that you should do if you’re in the long game, besides the two things I’ve already mentioned of getting a journal and joining Toastmasters, is read books, watch videos on the topic, just obsess about it people. Get yourself into the deep end and swim in it.

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Get as many resources as you can, watch as many talks as you can. I mean, we are living in the golden age of opportunities to look at talks from TED talks to virtual conversations on Zoom that are free these days to Edx lectures. I mean, there is no excuse. There are opportunities to watch people speaking everywhere, learning from these people, writing ideas down in your journal. This is part of the long game. And then the fourth element to do this in the long game version is to say ‘yes’ to every speaking opportunity that comes your way, any opportunity you get to speak, be that person that raises their hand and says, “I’ll do it!” Because it’s stage time. And the more you have stage time, the more you are learning these skills, the more you are failing, the more you are succeeding, the more you are yourself.

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And then the next point after that is that you should aim to improve one new thing in every speaking opportunity that you have. So there’s going to be a lot of different tools and techniques that you’re going to be learning about. As you go through this process, don’t get overwhelmed and think that you have to do them all at once. Keep it simple, keep a straight line going and choose one new element to work on for every speaking opportunity so that you don’t get boggled and bamboozled by thinking you have to do it all at once. One new thing, like the next time I’m going to speak, I’m going to use pauses consciously, or the next time I’m going to speak, I’m going to make sure that I try the three area scan. You don’t know what that is do you? It’s a way to look at the audience, dividing them into three sections so it looks like you’re taking in the whole room.

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The sixth point in the long game is to make sure that you get feedback from people you trust. Now, this is easy if you’re in a Toastmasters scenario because there people are designated. You have designated fellow Toastmaster who evaluates your speaking projects and they tell you what you’re good at and what you’re less good at. And this is gold! Feedback, I like to say, is free money. And the more you have, the richer, you are. Be careful to choose people to give you feedback who are people who give it constructively. Because the wrong way of giving feedback can actually do a lot of harm and can traumatize people to think that they’re doing really badly when actually it’s not that bad. So get feedback from people whom you trust, who you know, the kind who can do the sandwich method, which is give the good stuff first, and then get the less good stuff, and then get the good stuff at the end.

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You know, you really need to be supported in this work because you’re vulnerable. You’re vulnerable in this training phase. You’re like a seedling that’s starting to grow, fragile, small needing a lot of water, sunshine, and soil to take root. That’s where you are in this process. And the feedback that you get is that nourishment. So be careful to get the right kind of nourishment.

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And then the seventh point is to hang out with other people who are on the same journey, with the same intensity and/or people who are more advanced than you. When you rub shoulders with people who are in this category, specifically, people who are better than you at this, you want to aspire to be them. You want to rise to the occasion and hang out with the big kids, you want to do what they do. This is a really good tip for the long game.

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So if you can find people who you admire as speakers and go to virtual coffees with each other, or when we can see each other again, go for real coffees, you know, really get as much information and energy from these people as possible because that’s going to rub off on you in a great way. Yeah. So this is, this is the long game. This is a list of things that you can do to take this first pathway of committing to this long process of becoming a speaker. This is where endurance is everything. And this is where you are consistently and consciously embodying the learning. You are doing the learning and not just reading about it as one way to learn, you’re doing it. It’s active. There’s momentum. You’re doing this over time. Let’s go into the second pathway now, what I call the short game.

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Yes, it does exist. And it’s not, you know, the silver bullet that gives you all of this information in a week. No, there is no such silver bullet. This is still something that requires endurance and takes time and momentum. But here is a quicker version. And I like to say that this is a version for a lot of you out there who are leaders in transition. You’re in between things you’re kind of straddling between an old job or an old persona and a new job and a new persona. This is the rapid up-skilling version. So what do you do? Number one, you need to seek support. You can’t do the short game by yourself quickly. It’s a little bit like if you want to publish a book. Yeah. You can do the long game and try to do all this by yourself and find the publishers and do all the editing.

Public Speaking (15:12):

Yes. Or to fast track that, you could hire somebody to help you with this process, specifically hire an expert to take you through all of the labyrinths and twists and turns that they know about, but you don’t know about. So this is about seeking support from somebody that you admire as a speaker, somebody who has achieved, what you want to achieve in the future as a speaker. And most importantly, somebody who has left plenty of breadcrumbs of their success that you can follow, because you see, success leaves clues. And if you look around and find someone who has done what you want to do as a speaker, go to that source and seek their support, they might have one-to-one training opportunities. They might have small group training opportunities. The key in this is that you get as much one-to-one attention as you can get, right?

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This is not about signing up for some seminar where 500 people are sitting in the audience, virtual or live, and one person’s on stage telling you a bullet point list about how to be a better speaker or how to tell stories. No, this also is not a one to two day training session where you’re activated and there’s some great ideas and you feel kind of motivated and into it now, but then after that time is over, everything falls to the floor. You don’t remember much anymore, and it’s not that activation and you’re not motivated. And you stop where you started. No, this is about getting somebody to support you and to hold your hand. As you make this rapid up-skilling, you can’t do it alone. And another crucial element to this, which is connected is that all of this learning besides having a professional person, supporting you all this learning is about you being immersed in it from head to toe.

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You are covered in doing this work and it is happening probably over a shorter period of time, but it is happening intensely. You are inside this immersion. It’s like learning a language, right? The best way to learn a language in my opinion, is to go to the country where that language is spoken and survive. When you have to speak that language, as opposed to do it, you know, school French, for example, where you learn great grammar and you can spell really well. But when someone asks you a question or where you’re invited to say something, nothing comes out of your mouth. When you’re immersed, you are forced to speak in that language context, you have to say things, you’ll make mistakes. You’ll say silly things. You’ll do things that are embarrassing, but you’re learning because you are doing the same thing. The exact same thing, as a matter of fact is true with public speaking.

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You need to get out there and do this work, ideally with someone holding your hand and supporting you and loving you up and making sure that this journey is customized for you, your needs. I’m proud to say that the Leadership Speaking School does exactly that through the five day training session that I call Leadership. Speaking Core, this exact scenario happens, immersion, this hand-holding, this customization, this rapid up-skilling. It’s taken a lifetime to develop this program. Every single learning opportunity I’ve ever had related to stage time and speaking is inside this five day training session, the best exercises that I know, the most customized and bespoke content that I can create, the environment that nurtures and supports this kind of intense up-skilling. All of this, this cocoon, this container of learning is inside Leadership Speaking Core. And just as a quick aside, I am recruiting for the next session of Leadership Speaking Core.

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It’s going to take place from the first to the fifth of February, 2021. And there are only four slots available. So if this is something that’s interesting for you, if you’re in that position where you’re in transition and you need rapid up-skilling in the way that I’m describing it, go ahead and go to the website, That’s where you’re going to find out more. And that’s where you can apply. I’m very picky about who I choose to be in this program. It has to be people who are hungry. It has to be people who are ready for this work. And it has to be people who are going to benefit from this unique and premium experience.

Public Speaking (19:49):

Anyway, back to these pathways. So far, I’ve talked about the long game, and now I have described the short game. Yes, there is a third pathway. It’s the medium game. And here it is in this scenario, you have the journal, you’ve joined Toastmasters. You’re watching as much as you can related it to the topic of public speaking, you are saying ‘yes’ to every speaking opportunity, and you’re creating new opportunities. So you’re making opportunities happen where there aren’t any. You’re receiving feedback from people, people you trust, and you are getting professional support. So it’s kind of a combination between the long game and the short game. That’s the middle game, the best of both worlds. Folks, there is no quick-fix solution to learning a skill like public speaking. You got that, right? You get that from what I’ve said, you understand the level of endurance needed to get through this. It takes commitment first and foremost, a decision to say, ‘yes’, I’m going for it!

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And I’m going to go for it 110%. That’s how you get to the destination of becoming the speaker you’ve always wanted to be, with all of these three pathways. Here are things that are common throughout. You are embodying the learning, putting it inside your body and doing it. Not reading bullet points, not just reading the books and watching the videos and listening to the podcasts, but actually physically embodying the work. You are keeping up your momentum, not slowing down, doing something every week, every month, going for it. Rising, rising, rising, you are saying ‘yes’ to as many opportunities as you can. Understanding that stage time is the way for you to be implementing and embodying this work. And here is the clincher guys. The key, the key is that you WANT this. The key is that every cell in your body is screaming for you to do this.

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When you have that kind of vibration going through your body and you are activating yourself into this learning, then it’s going to happen. But if you’re lukewarm or not sure, or not really committed, it’s not going to happen. So where you are in the spectrum of these things, only you know that best, and the world we are living in has so many opportunities for you to take advantage of to do this work. Whether it’s looking for that speaker coach that can deliver what you need, whether it’s joining a Toastmasters club near you, whether it’s getting some resources and looking at TED talks or listening to podcasts about it, whatever the resource is, it’s out there and it’s there for the taking. So I hope that this podcast episode has given you some clarity about the options that you can take to choose the pathway that you need to improve yourself as a speaker. I hope that you found this episode helpful and that you can apply what you’ve learned to your own public speaking journey. I look forward to bringing you another episode next time, where I will unpack more leadership speaking golden nuggets. Until then, thanks for listening Folks, and take care of yourselves and others. Speak to you next time!