ET-023: How to Become an Expert Public Speaker
ET-023: How to Become an Expert Public Speaker
by Wayne Brown on November 29, 2022
by Wayne Brown on November 29, 2022
Episode notes: A conversation with Brenden Kumarasamy
In our episode today, the journey and the global travel continues as we stop off at Montreal, Canada. This is such a fun adventure that I’m truly hoping we’re bringing everyone incredible value through the variety of leadership topics each week.
One of the greatest takeaways for me so far is the awareness that we’re all people, regardless of where in the world we’re based, we share common passions, interests, and desires and even some challenges.
If you have been with me from the beginning, you most likely know that I’m passionate about opportunities to learn and grow. And if this suits your style then today is going to be a treat as we hit the ground running with the topic of communications. A broad and challenging subject for many of us to master, as we look to the art and science of becoming succinct with our spoken words.
Our guest Brenden Kumarasamy learnt how to control and command this field and turned it into his obsession. He left his day job to pursue this full time and hasn’t looked back since.
In our conversation with Brenden, we uncover many great insights about how we can immediately begin practicing for only 15 minutes a day to become more effective and nail many of the 18 core areas Brenden refers to when he speaks about communication.
Here’s an extract from our conversation where Brenden explains what the university students, he coaches for the Case Competitions would say as they approach the judges panel for their pitch.
“So they would walk in, they’re still 20 years old in front of executives in their 40s and 50s. I once had a, one of my students present in front of the president of Walmart Canada, literally. He’s sitting in the judging panel. And this is how they began.
“Ever since I was a kid, I always loved going to Walmart, the groceries, the video games, the electronics, it felt like every single day was Christmas. And that’s why we’re so excited to present Walmart’s growth strategy to help them reinvent not just retail, but the online merchandising platform. Good afternoon to the board of directors of Walmart. My name is Brenden Kumarasamy. I’m joined by my colleagues….”
Today’s Guest: BRENDEN KUMARASAMY
Today we speak with Mr. Brenden Kumarasamy, a communications expert. Brenden is the founder of MasterTalk. He coaches ambitious executives and entrepreneurs to become top 1% communicators in their industry.
Now, as we know, communications is an extremely broad topic and Brenden’s specific area of focus is on public speaking and presentations. So, for all of you, this is a particularly important conversation should you wish to pick up some tips on how to improve your performance in this area.
Brenden has a popular YouTube channel called MasterTalk with the goal of providing free access to communication tools for everyone in the world.
My last check of the site revealed a total of 199 short videos packed with nuggets of free advice on practical actions that you can implement immediately. Brenden got his start in the field when at college after being introduced to a fascinating activity called Case Competitions, where companies provide a short case study for students to analyze and then present their solution to the panel.
For some of you, I know this environment may present your worst nightmare, while for others, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. And for Brenden, it was the latter. And from this beginning, his interest has flourished, leading to the coaching practices that he now operates.
He’s truly a maestro at understanding how to break down what can seem an overwhelming and insurmountable communications challenge to reframe it as a tangible, learnable skill set.
Final words from Brenden:
I would say for me, going back to the question we touched upon a little earlier here, how would your life change if you were an exceptional communicator? A lot of people, when they hear that question, Wayne, they leave it as a side thought.
They go, “Oh, that’s a nice question.” But they don’t actually spend the time writing it down. Also notice what I’m doing here as I’m speaking. I’m not just getting people listening to ideas. I’m getting them to take action. So then they’re like, “Oh, now he’s right. I need to do the question now.” So that’s part of communication. But the piece here is, I want you all to spend 15 minutes and think about that question. Think about that question.
Are people actually imagining themselves as the better communicator? ‘Cause I always believed, and we can end on this, that the biggest challenge in communication is not fear. And I’m very controversial in my industry of saying that. I believe the greatest challenge in communication is motivation.
Because there are so many things in our life that we’re scared of, like getting a new job, dating, and all that fun stuff that we did while we were scared. Because our motivation was so high that we pulled it off anyways and through this question, I encourage our audience to find the motivation necessary to do all the stuff we talked about today.
0:00:03.7 Wayne Brown: Hello, I’m Wayne Brown and welcome to the ET Project. We’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world, whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET. In our episode today, the journey and the global travel continues as we stop off at Montreal, Canada. This is such a fun adventure that I’m truly hoping we’re bringing everyone incredible value through the variety of leadership topics each week. One of the greatest takeaways for me so far is the awareness that we’re all people, regardless of where in the world we’re based, we share a common passion, interests and challenges, including desires.
0:00:45.0 WB: And so is the case again today as we speak with Mr. Brenden Kumarasamy, a communications expert. Brenden is the founder of MasterTalk. He coaches ambitious executives and entrepreneurs to become top 1% communicators in their industry. Now, as we know, communications is an extremely broad topic and Brenden’s specific area of focus is on public speaking and presentations. So for all of you, this is a particularly important conversation should you wish to pick up some tips on how to improve your performance in this area. Brenden has a popular YouTube channel called MasterTalk with the goal of providing free access to communication tools for everyone in the world.
0:01:33.2 WB: My last check of the site revealed a total of 199 short videos packed with nuggets of free advice on practical actions that you can implement immediately. Brenden got his start in the field when at college after being introduced to a fascinating activity called Case Competitions, where companies provide a short case study for students to analyze and then present their solution to the panel. For some of you, I know this environment may present your worst nightmare, while for others, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. And for Brenden, it was the latter. And from this beginning, his interest has flourished, leading to the coaching practices that he now operates. He’s truly a maestro at understanding how to break down what can seem an overwhelming and insurmountable communications challenge to reframe it as a tangible, learnable skill set. So please join me now as we converse with Mr. Brenden Kumarasamy in today’s episode titled, How to Become an Expert Public Speaker.
0:02:45.5 Speaker 2: Welcome to the ET Project, a podcast for those executive talents determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor, Wayne Brown, as we unpack an exciting future together.
0:03:00.6 WB: Team ET, welcome back for another week. Again this week, we have a fantastic guest joining us, Brenden Kumarasamy. It’s great to have you on board. I’ve really been hanging out for this topic. We’re going to be talking about communication in general, but we’re going to narrow that field down to the area of public speaking and probably touch a little bit on presentations as a consequence of doing that public speaking. So Brenden, welcome to the ET Project.
0:03:31.4 Brenden Kumarasamy: The pleasure is absolutely mine, Wayne. Thanks for having me.
0:03:34.7 WB: When we were connecting for the first time, we were talking about something that I knew nothing about and this is really reflective of my age and how the world has evolved. And I’ve said, there’s this competition and I believe it’s quite global called Case Competitions. This was really your launching pad, so I wonder if you could just give the audience a bit of background. Anyone that might be as naive as what I was, I’m sure that will be fascinating.
0:04:03.3 BK: Absolutely Wayne. So let me start with this. Your age has definitely nothing to do with it. It’s just a very, very small community because the people who do Case Competitions, Wayne, are often business school students specifically. So they’re either doing their bachelor’s degree in business or their MBAs. Anyone outside of that community and even most people in that faculty don’t even know what a Case Competition is. So it’s a very small group of people. So let’s say in Canada, let’s say there’s around 35 million people. I would guess off the top of my head, probably a 1000 of them, 2000 tops know what a Case Competition is. That’s how small the community is. And that’s where I got my start.
0:04:43.6 BK: So you’re right. When I went to college in business school, I did them. And some people ask me, is it because you had a passion for public speech, because you want to share your ideas with the world? Yeah, not really. I actually saw it as a feeder school. So how Case Competitions work, Wayne, is it’s a vehicle, big corporations like IBM, Deloitte, Ernest & Young, they actually sponsor these competitions so they can pluck out the best people in business school to give them jobs. So I saw it as my ticket out of poverty. So I took it.
0:05:13.8 WB: It’s an incredible structure and setup and we’ll go deeper into it in a moment. But I grew up in the age of debating, Toastmasters and Rotary and these types of clubs. And I’m wondering, is there any similarity or can you give me some context behind what happens for a Case Competition?
0:05:34.9 BK: Absolutely, Wayne. I would say the big difference, there’s some pieces that are similar, but I would say the big difference is the level of intensity and the goal. So for example, let’s say in debate, what happens? You have a controversial topic or a common topic that you debate across two sides of the aisle and there’s one person who wins the debate, one person loses. That’s how a debate is structured. But in a Case Competition, how it works is let’s say Nike was a key sponsor. They would come up to me and you and say, “Okay, team, here’s the problem I have. I have enough money to start one store and open an additional one, but I’m not sure whether I should open it in Berlin, in Germany or should I open it in Shanghai, in China? Where should I open it and why?” That’s an example of a business case and a problem. So what students are given, Wayne, is a 20-page document outlining all of Nike’s financials, their history and the different options that they’re weighing.
0:06:26.6 BK: And what the students need to do is they need to read in three hours, by the way. They need to read the entire 20-page document, create a solution, come up with slides, create a financial statement, do all of this analysis with SWOT and Porter’s and all of this. And at the end of the three hours, they have to pitch their solution to the panel of judges who are often the executives of that company. And then the executives choose the best three teams to win that competition, first, second, third place. And often the people who get placed, they get talked up and offered jobs and opportunities as well to work at their companies.
0:07:01.7 WB: What are the panel looking for? Are they looking for the skill that you have in presenting it? Are they looking for the context of what you’re presenting? What is the criteria?
0:07:13.5 BK: Excellent question, Wayne. So it’s a mix and it depends on the competition. But I would say a general rule is what the judges are looking for is a mix of two things. The first one is the depthness and the context of the solution. And the other piece is how we’re delivering it. Let me give you an example. And this is how I got my start. Let’s say we take Walmart as an example. Some students would come in and go, “Hi, everyone. My name is Brenden. This is Wayne. And today we’re going to be talking about Walmart and their growth for success.” And by the way, from a judge’s perspective, they’re still really impressed because remember, most of these students are 19, 20, 21 years old. So even if someone’s speaking like that, they’re like, “Wow, like I can’t believe they came up with this in three hours.”
0:07:57.8 BK: But then you have my teams, the people I coach to be world champions. So they would walk in, they’re still 20 years old in front of executives in their 40s and 50s. I once had a, one of my students present in front of the president of Walmart Canada, literally. He’s sitting in the judging panel. And this is how they began. “Ever since I was a kid, I always loved going to Walmart, the groceries, the video games, the electronics, it felt like every single day was Christmas. And that’s why we’re so excited to present Walmart’s growth strategy to help them reinvent not just retail, but the online merchandising platform. Good afternoon to the board of directors of Walmart. My name is Brenden Kumarasamy. I’m joined by my colleagues.” Let me take a pause. When you intro like that, the judges are looking at you going, wow.
0:08:47.5 WB: I can imagine. I can imagine. And yeah, that’s beautiful. I’m sure you’ve polished that many times. So essentially what you’re doing is you’re differentiating yourself from the beginning. You’re getting them to sit up, take notice of you and want to listen to what else you have to share.
0:09:03.7 BK: That’s correct. And then the other piece is the depthness of the solution. So some teams, once again, they’re young, so they don’t know much. So they’ll say, “OKay, I think you should do a marketing campaign. And this is what the marketing campaign looks like.” Whereas a winning team goes, “This is the marketing campaign. Here’s the logic behind it. Here’s all the data that we’ve analyzed. Here’s the heat maps that represent why Berlin and what specific town sets and road corners.” So it’s the depthness of that solution.
0:09:31.0 WB: That’s the polished finished outcome. And I’m sure there’s a huge journey that everybody needs to go on to get to that point. I’m really thinking about signing up myself. I’m excited by just listening to what you’re introducing. And I’m really hopeful that our audience are also engaged at this moment because this is one of the foundations fundamental to being a great leader. You need to be able to articulate, communicate and effectively get your message across and do it in a succinct way that really engages the clientele, the stakeholder, let’s call them, that you’re trying to work with. So I really resonate with the area that you’re focused on. I’m a believer.
0:10:28.3 WB: And I have to say, I looked at your YouTube channel, I believe it’s called MasterTalks. You have a phenomenal number of videos up there. 199, I looked at, it’s an absolute library of knowledge that you’re sharing for free with anybody that’s interested. So I highly recommend everyone go and check out the YouTube channel, MasterTalks. We’ll link to it in our notes, but really informative, great stuff. So let’s jump in a little bit deeper Brenden and look at how do I go about getting to that polished stage? I’m young, I’m a new leader, maybe I’m not even young and new, but I’m a leader, I want to improve on my ability to talk in public, but also to deliver with impact. So where do I kickstart from? What’s my base to commence from?
0:11:21.7 BK: Absolutely, Wayne. So here’s the way that I think about this. Communication is like juggling 18 balls at the same time. So one of those balls is eye contact, one of them is facial expression, smiling, vocal tone variety, etcetera. But if you try and juggle all 18 at once right away, all of those balls will fall to the ground. So for me, the perspective has always been which ball should we start with first and why? So if we juggle the three easiest ones, that builds momentum. So I call them my easy threes, which I’ll explain one at a time so I don’t ramble for too long here. So start with the first one, which is the random word exercise. Pick a random word like trophy case, like computer screen, like China, like light bulb, and create random presentations out of thin air. So there’s two reasons why this is an effective exercise, Wayne. One because it helps us deal with uncertainty. Life is filled with uncertainty. Small talk is a great example. When you meet somebody new, you have no idea where that conversation is going to go, no idea what questions are going to be asked. That’s okay. Random word exercise helps you with that.
0:12:28.7 WB: So…
0:12:28.9 Speaker 2: The second reason… Yeah, jump in.
0:12:33.4 WB: In my day… [laughter] I have to stop saying that, I’m sorry. But we would call that impromptu speaking. So we would be given the topic, you would have to get up in front, you would go for it for a couple of minutes. So I guess this is a similar kind of exercise that you’re talking about. So therefore, would you do this by yourself or would you do this in connection with somebody else listening to you? How would you approach that?
0:12:55.0 BK: Absolutely, it’s a great question, Wayne. And then the other piece that I wanted to touch on is if you can make sense out of nonsense, you can make sense out of anything. And that’s really the magic of the random word. Now to your question, we also refer to it as impromptu speaking, that is what it is. I just don’t use that word because somebody who’s not a communication expert, I try and simplify everything down to the core, they forget what that means. That’s why I don’t… But yes, you’re correct. That is what it is. So essentially, what do we do? Ideally for me, you want to do this with a partner.
0:13:25.3 BK: So that means a friend where you’re getting a Zoom call with. And if you have kids, I would just do this with your children. That’s the easiest way to integrate this in your family life. I’m not talking about 15 year olds, they can be 5 years old. And they actually teach you a really valuable lesson, which is just to do it. Because when you give a kid the word towel, they don’t go, “Oh no, I wonder what people will judge me for that.” They just go, “Oh, like a towel is… ” And they just have fun with it. And that’s really the key. So I’d encourage you to do that. But even if you’re alone in your home, you can still do this on your own. I practice the random word exercise all the time by myself, where I’m just walking around and I go, oh, light bulb, what would I do? The lights of impact, I would just create presentations. But I think the key is have a bias for action.
0:14:04.8 WB: In terms of frequency, how often do you have to practice this to get good at impromptu or random word speaking?
0:14:14.3 BK: Great question. So for me, I think the easy… Let me give you the easy answer and the fast answer. So the easy answer is, it’s not about… Like Alex Tomasi says, “It’s not about doing extraordinary things. It’s about doing ordinary things for extraordinary long periods of time.” So what does that mean in the context of the random word exercise, Wayne? What it means, is if you do it five minutes a day, you’ll keep the doctor away. Meaning, if you do it once, it takes 60 seconds. You do it five times, it takes five minutes. So if you do it five minutes a day for a month, you’ll have done it 150 times. You do it every day for a year, five times, you’ll have done it 1800 times. But I would see, I start to see massive results from my clients probably after 100. That’s when the massive impact starts to occur. So I would just rush for 100.
0:15:10.4 WB: Okay. I used to deliver communications training and we had a mirror in the corner. And I’m guessing that’s an alternative to having a partner at least talk to yourself. All right, so that’s number one. Easy solution or easy action number two?
0:15:28.2 BK: Absolutely. So the second of the easy three is, is the questions, Wayne. We get asked questions all the time in our life. At school, at work, on a podcast, but most of us are reactive to those questions. We wait for the question to come up, instead of being proactive in managing them. I’ll give you an example. A few years ago when I started guesting on podcasts, I sucked. I remember some guy asked me, “Hey, Brenden, where does the fear of communication come from?” And I looked at him and I said, “Los Angeles, San Diego, Shanghai, I don’t know.” So I wasn’t prepared. So I was being reactive. So how did I fix this? Every single day for five minutes, Wayne, I would answer one question that I thought the world would ask me about my expertise, my products or my services. But if you do that once a day for a year, Wayne, you’ll have answered 365 questions about your industry and you’ll be unstoppable.
0:16:31.5 WB: So you’re really perfecting your pitch just through repetition and getting comfortable with talking about it, right? So we have the random words, we have the questions. Number three?
0:16:43.0 BK: Number three. So simple, nobody does it, Wayne. Make a list of the people that you love in your life. People that are on social media, people that are open minded, people that really supports you and ask yourself some simple questions. When was the last time we sent any of these people video messages? 20 seconds. Just to say, “Hey, Wayne, really appreciate the work that you do in this podcast. Thanks so much for the impact that you’re creating the world. I hope you’re having a wonderful day and wishing you a wonderful week.” Nobody does that. And all it takes is 20 seconds to make a difference. I once gave that tip on a different podcast with a woman named Christina. And what she did is she sent video messages to her grandparents because she never sees them and it made their day. So I encourage you to send video messages during people’s birthdays or just in general and it will drastically improve your ability to present online but on camera as well.
0:17:35.4 WB: Aside from the gratitude factor and the feel good factor in doing it, right? So there’s a business benefit in doing it as well. They’re the easy three, that’s where you would start if I walked into your office and said, “Hey, Brenden, I need help.” Okay, I’m practicing this. I’m consistent and I’m improving. What next?
0:18:00.0 BK: Right. So ball number four is, because you’re assuming people are doing the first three things, which I don’t think is the case. So ball four is actually a statement, which is, the best way to speak is to speak. Meaning you could listen to me and Wayne talk all day, for those of you who are listening to this, but the only way you’re going to be better is by doing this every day. So what’s ball number four? Ball number four is a clear understanding of what the top 1% of listeners are doing right now as they’re listening to this podcast, which is they’re booking 15 minutes in their calendar every single day for the next year to do the random word exercise, five minutes, to do one question drill for five minutes and to send three video messages for five minutes. And that’s the key.
0:18:49.5 BK: I have not met a single person in my life, Wayne, in my career that has been doing these three things without me bringing them up. So ball four is an encouragement for your audience, Wayne, to say, “Don’t leave this information in your mind. Ask yourself, how am I implementing this today so I can get results tomorrow?”
0:19:11.6 WB: Extremely powerful and a great reminder to all of us that being passive and a listener doesn’t produce results. Right. You have to take action. You have to get out there and put in practice what you’re listening about and learning about. Let’s say that you were now in a scenario where you’re going to prepare to do a public talk. If I chunk that down, I typically would look at it from two angles. One is the preparation I need to do and the other is the actual delivery and make sure that both are adequately addressed. So I wonder if we could sort of dive a little bit into those two sides, if that’s the right term, and get some ideas around what could I do to make sure that I’m doing what I need to do, rather than just randomly doing things that may not produce the result. So if we start with the preparation side, Brenden, let’s say you have, I don’t know, a TED talk perhaps in a month’s time. How would I start my thinking, my preparation to get me to the point where I’m ready to deliver?
0:20:28.1 BK: Absolutely, Wayne. So this is a strategy I teach clients called the puzzle method. So what does puzzle mean? Communication is like jigsaw puzzles. You know those toy puzzles you see as kids where you put a… There’s 1000 box and then we put them all together? So when we work on a puzzle, the question I always ask is which pieces do we start with first and why? And most of us say the edges, because they’re easier to find in the box. You put the edges together and then you wake your way into the middle. Pretty simple. Why am I telling you this story? I’m telling you this story because most of us in communication, we don’t do that. We do the opposite. We start with the middle, unfortunately. We shove a bunch of content in our presentation, with our TED talk or any talk for that matter. We get to the presentation, we ramble throughout the whole thing and then the last slide sounds something like this, “Uh, yeah. So uh, thanks.” Not the right approach. So instead the strategy is practice like puzzle. Practice just the first two minutes of your TED talk, just the introduction, 25 times. 25 times seems like a big number, Wayne, but it actually isn’t because it takes 50 minutes to do it 25 times. It’s not that long. Same thing with the conclusion. What’s a great movie with a terrible ending? Last time I checked, terrible movie. Same thing with the close and then tackle the middle. That’s the way I would strategize.
0:21:56.5 WB: Okay. Fantastic. So if we drill down into that even further, in that opening, what are you looking to put on the table? What are you looking to make them aware of?
0:22:08.8 BK: For sure, Wayne. So I don’t have hard, fast rules on this. Some coaches say, “Hey, you can start with a powerful question or you can start with a personal story.” For me, the frame is always this. Let’s start with my definition of communication. We’ll dive into these details, ’cause it’s a bit long of an answer. So what does key idea mean? At the end of the day, public speaking is about how do we convey an idea in a way that achieves a specific outcome for a specific audience? How do we convey an idea in a way that achieves a specific outcome for a specific audience? And that could be a multitude of things. That could be a Ted Talk where we share an idea or it could be convincing our wife that we should have Mexican food instead of Chinese food tonight. ‘Cause it’s all about expecting that outcome and that audience.
0:22:56.8 BK: So with that said, the first question you’d ask yourself is what’s the point of this presentation? What is the key idea? What is the purpose of what we’re trying to do? And don’t say there’s more than one because if there’s more than one, people will forget everything. ‘Cause if you say my goal is remove people’s fear of speaking and also I want to teach them a cupcake class and do all this stuff, they’ll just forget everything. So for me, using myself as an example, what is my key idea on this podcast? I just have one. There’s only one, which is to convince your audience that communication mastery is within reach. That is it. So now the next step becomes, to your point, “Well, Brenden, what do we do with the opening or the middle?” The next question becomes a trial and error process of figuring out what is the best way to defend my idea, to get people to buy into it. And the way that’s worked historically for me, for my idea, is telling my personal story. I grew up speaking a second language in Montreal, broken left arm. It’s still crooked to this day, but bash this degree in accounting if I can do it so can you.
0:23:58.7 WB: How much time would you allow for your preparation? And I know that’s a very broad based question, but typically if you were preparing for something, how much time would you give yourself to make sure that you really nailed that preparation?
0:24:14.4 BK: You’re right. It does depend, Wayne. Great question. So what does it depend on though? So there’s two types of presentations in my mind, to keep things very simple today. There’s the repeatable presentation and the repetition and… Excuse me, the presentation that is a one time. So example, let’s say you’re in the corporate world. Most of your presentations are one timers where you’ll enter a boardroom, they’ll say, “Hey, I need this for Wednesday, Wayne. You deliver it for Wednesday or Brenden.” And then after that’s done, “Hey, I need you to do this for another client.” So the presentation’s always switching. So for those presentations, you’ll have to make a judgment call based on the degree of impact. Is this $100 million deal presentation or is this $1000 deal with a client we already work with? We have to measure the impact and that’s why the random word exercise, the question drill, the video messages are a great foundation, because when we don’t have a lot of time, which is going to happen in our career, we’re able to deliver something with the limited time we got.
0:25:14.9 BK: Now let’s talk about the other piece, which is the repeatable presentation. I’m a lot more interested in this area. Which is what is the one presentation that we can reiterate on that can clearly show an advancement or skill set? That one we should spend our life preparing. So for example, on a podcast, I’m always looking for ways to get better and I sucked at the beginning and I’ll still get better in the future or present or a keynote. If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s your pitch. That’s the one you want to spend a lifetime preparing to be honest, it’s an iteration.
0:25:47.9 WB: Very good advice. While you’re talking, I was reflecting back on my own journey and thinking, man, I should have spoken to you a while ago. [laughter]
0:25:53.3 BK: I probably wasn’t alive a while ago to be honest.
0:26:00.4 WB: We could have made myself much more effective. So we’ve got our preparation, we’re comfortable with it, we’ve done our practice and I was trying to recall a quote that I heard once that you always have three presentations, the one you prepare, the one you practice and the one you finally deliver. I found that worked pretty accurately with me. Let’s say we’ve done our preparation, we’re as confident as we can be, we come to the day of the delivery. And, I guess, for the most part, this is where it becomes the real challenge for most people. The moment of truth where you have to stand up in front of other people and become naked, so to speak, exposed to their gaze, their criticisms, their questions, etcetera. For many leaders that I know and myself included at some stages of my career, this whole mindset game really brings you undone or can bring you undone. The question that I’m thinking around here is how do you prepare yourself as you’re about to come up onto the stage or stand in front of the board or launch into your presentation? What are some things you can do at that immediate moment before that happens?
0:27:13.9 BK: Absolutely, Wayne. Here’s my personal perspective. Other people might say power posing or drinking a glass of water or deep breathing. It’s all good, but that’s not the way that I drive my plane home. Here’s the way I think about it. Do the harder thing outside of the board room, so that the board room becomes a joke. That’s the way that I think about it. So for me, sure, okay, we won’t be stressed about a presentation we prepared for. How about I force you to give a presentation you’ve never prepared for in your life and I’m allowed to ask questions, which is a drill we teach called PowerPoint Karaoke. Where students have to actually present decks that they’ve never seen in their life that are literally about anything. So they’re presenting something and then a picture of a monkey shows up. And then everyone in the class is allowed to ask them questions about the monkey. “Hey, can you talk to us more about this monkey? Where are they from? Where did you source it?” So it’s a bunch of nonsense and you have to cope with that. So for me, the strategy has always been you prep so much with a random word exercise that you have an inner feeling, an innate knowing that you’ve done the random word exercise, which is often the case in the board room, more than every executive in that room combined. Because all of them did it zero times. So even if you’ve done it 100 times, you win.
0:28:32.8 BK: Same thing with the questions drill. “Oh, Brenden, what do we do about nerves in the questions? What happens if we get asked a question we don’t know the answer?” The answer is do the question drill so much, five minutes a day, every day, that it literally does not become a factor. And that’s the point I want to drive home. And the hardcore quote on this that I share all the time, not too much on a podcast, but I will hear ’cause you’re asking a lot of nuances is the more you sweat in the gym, the less you bleed in the war. And that’s always been my perspective. Especially me, Wayne, ’cause my clients are like 20, 30 years older than me. I better know what I’m talking about or they’ll never trust me with their transformation, given my age.
0:29:13.0 WB: Yeah. Again, I was visualizing some situations. One of the things I’ve noticed with you, Brenden, is you’re a great storyteller. And I’m guessing that seems very well into your ability to speak in public. So you have the ability to tell the story, which makes people relax and align with you rather than sit there thinking, when is Brenden going to stop talking? I think that’s a gift and it may be understated, but I know there’s a lot of focus on the power of storytelling, but within the presentation, it seems like it could also be very important.
0:29:48.6 S2: Absolutely. Let’s talk about storytelling, now that you brought it up. So let’s go back to my 18 ball analogy, Wayne. Communication is like juggling 18 balls at the same time. So you’re right. So I’m telling stories in the same time that my body language is right, in the same time that my smiling is there, my vocal tones. So here’s what I’ll say upfront. If someone is not willing to do the random word exercise, to do the video message and the question drills, forget about storytelling because that’s ball 16. That’s where I would start with. Because a lot of people, you see too many storytelling experts go, “This is how you tell stories.” And my point of view on this is always, “Well, someone isn’t willing to the random word exercise. How are you supposed to master storytelling?” So let’s start there. Now the other piece is how do you tell stories? So I’ll teach you the simple framework. And it’s by Les Brown, which I’ll simplify, but I’ll say his quote first, which is, “Never make a point without telling a story and never tell a story without making a point.”
0:30:46.2 BK: So what does he mean by that? He means that every single story should start with the lesson first in mind. Whereas what most people do with stories is they try and write the story first, not the lesson first. So here’s what you need to do. You need to write a list of all the lessons you’re excited about teaching in a speech, and you circle one of them. So let’s say mine, getting people inspired about wanting to communicate ideas. So for example, and this is a little bit meta because you’re asking the details, that question drill joke about how I was scared and I asked a stupid question and I said, the fear of communication comes from Los Angeles. That’s a joke that I plant, right? I do that every time that I say that story because I know… This is me being a little cuckoo here, a little crazy showing you under the rug. I’m using self-deprecating humor as a weapon, as a tool to actually ease my audience where they go, “Oh, he’s just a kid. If he could do it, I can too.”
0:31:39.6 WB: That you’re human, you’re just like me, right? We all are fallible. Yeah. Sorry, I cut you.
0:31:45.0 BK: Correct. No, no, no. You’re totally fine. It’s good that you’re reinforcing it. So for me, how it works, especially when you become more advanced, is you’re juggling 100 balls at the same time. So I can pull out little tools from everybody and use them in my game. But in terms of storytelling, what I would say is start with the outcome first and then write a list, not one story, write a list of story ideas that you think will help convey that outcome first. And then what I have students do is I have them pitch the story, not to overthink it, not to spend two hours writing this, to just literally pitch every story like it was a random word exercise. And just feel what sounds really good. And then they lean into one that works and then they write the detailed story on that and it works every time.
0:32:32.1 WB: Yeah, that’s a great tip. I’m gonna practice that myself. I probably know the answer to this question, but I’m gonna ask it anyway because I’m sure people are wondering. Quite often we’re standing up in front of a team or in front of a group, and our mind wanders and it goes blank from what we’re meant to be talking about. Any suggestions about what’s a way of bringing yourself back and getting back into whatever it was you were presenting?
0:32:58.7 BK: For sure, Wayne. And you probably don’t want to hear this, but it’s just the truth. Most people I found in my career who go blank, it’s ’cause they didn’t do the random word exercise enough times. I have never seen a person in my career who has done the random word exercise more than 100 times total, not like a week. Let me just frame what 100 means ’cause it seems like a big number. That’s five times a day for three weeks. That’s it, you hit on. So when you hit 100, what happens usually is you might still run blank, but the occurrence of that happening becomes exponentially lower. It’s not even close anymore. Because you’re just used to rambling about ideas and thoughts that have nothing to do with your expertise. For example, let’s say you’re a marketing executive, but I’m coaching you and I go, “Do avocado.”
0:33:46.5 BK: You’re like, “I don’t know anything about avocados.” Yeah, exactly. And he’s like, “Okay, well, I had breakfast with avocados.” So he’s really stressed or she’s really stressed. But if they’re running a blank in a marketing presentation, they’ll just laugh it off and just keep going.
0:34:00.6 WB: We often talk about being comfortable enough with yourself that you can dance in the moment, meaning you’re not focused or thinking in your head trying to preempt how am I gonna help this person? What question do I need to ask next? You just are relaxed and enjoying the conversation mentally between you and your coachee. And whatever comes up, you’re comfortable enough to deal with it. And I guess that’s similar to what you’re speaking about.
0:34:33.5 BK: Absolutely. And there’s a great quote that summarizes your thought, Wayne, by Jeremy Cowart that I swear by. And the quote is, “The more we execute, the more we fail. The more we fail, the more we don’t care. And the more we don’t care, the more we execute.” And that’s really the magic of life. The more you do the random word exercise, the more you’ll mess up the random word exercise. “Oh my god, I’m so bad at this, terrible.” But then the more often you do this, especially with your kids, you just go, “Well, I just don’t really care anymore. It’s just random.” What’s Brenden gonna do? Send me to jail if I don’t do the random word exercise correctly? So you’re just gonna do it. And then eventually what happens is your mindset around that exercise changes and you just have fun with it. So you do a lot more of it and that cycle continues.
0:35:18.1 WB: You mentioned at the beginning how you would open during your case competition pitch. What about the close? So if we look at memory, we recall, we know that primacy and recency, beginning and closing, the two most critical moments. So how do you close your presentations or your speech?
0:35:43.5 BK: For sure, Wayne. So everyone’s got their strategy. That’s why I love puzzle, right? Do the intro then the conclusion. But my signature close that I love teaching, that most people like, is called the vision state close. So the vision state close means take your key idea. Let’s say your key idea is in my case, that anybody in the world can be an exceptional communicator and everyone listening this can be a great speaker. So what I do in the close, instead of just summarizing my thoughts and going what did we learn today, which I don’t like, it’s not my style. I think it works in the boardroom though. That’s what you needed to do it in the boardroom. But if you’re giving a keynote or something, for me it’s more about help us imagine a world in which your ideas come true. So what I do in my vision state close is I start with something like this, “Imagine if every human being on earth was a great communicator. Not only would we make more money and get more sales in our business, but we’d get so much more than that. We’d raise our children better. We’d have better relationships with each other. We’d make the waiter at a restaurant stay better and lead a more fulfilling life.” That’s just a quick trailer. It’s a lot more detailed than that.
0:36:54.2 WB: I understood. Yes.
0:36:55.9 BK: Yes, so you help imagine it. And the reason I’m so bullish on this, I’m so focused on this, because for me there’s three parts to public speaking that no expert covers, which is ridiculous. Let’s go through it. The first part is, are people listening to your ideas? The second part is, are people taking action on your ideas? And the third one is, are people sharing your ideas? But most communicators miss two and three, because they go, “Are people listening to me?” But they’re not asking themselves, are people taking action and are people sharing? Most people in that case aren’t doing either.
0:37:24.7 WB: So how would you finish that call to action? So you plant the seed with a beautiful vision, would you say, “Let’s go on this journey together or… ” What would the last line of your presentation be?
0:37:38.8 BK: It all depends on the context. So if it’s more of like a sales piece, then I would say, “Hey, for you, there’s two paths moving forward for you to change your life. One with coaching, one with HANAD, and then book a call with me.” That’s one. The more inspiring one is around the idea of potential. So when that presentation goes towards the end, it’s more of a call to action back to the audience. I would say something like this, “I encourage every single person in this room to not just do the random word exercise and the question drill and send a video message, but to imagine a life in which you’re a better communicator in it. Because if you do, your life might never be the same over again. Thank you so much.” something like that.
0:38:25.9 WB: I’m hoping people are filling notebooks at the moment with ideas that you’re trying out there, Brenden. It’s an incredible journey and you are able to communicate it so effortlessly and it’s fantastic to come to an end here. But anything we haven’t spoken about you would like to make sure the audience is?
0:38:46.2 BK: Absolutely, Wayne. And thanks. And it’s your great questions that are leading to this great conversation. I would say for me, going back to the question we touched upon a little earlier here, how would your life change if you were an exceptional communicator? A lot of people, when they hear that question, Wayne, they leave it as a side thought. They go, “Oh, that’s a nice question.” But they don’t actually spend the time writing it down. Also notice what I’m doing here as I’m speaking. I’m not just getting people listening to ideas. I’m getting them to take action. So then they’re like, “Oh, now he’s right. I need to do the question now.” So that’s part of communication. But the piece here is, I want you all to spend 15 minutes and think about that question. Think about that question.
0:39:27.8 BK: Are people actually imagining themselves as the better communicator? ‘Cause I always believed, and we can end on this, that the biggest challenge in communication is not fear. And I’m very controversial in my industry of saying that. I believe the greatest challenge in communication is motivation. Because there are so many things in our life that we’re scared of, like getting a new job, dating, and all that fun stuff that we did while we were scared. Because our motivation was so high that we pulled it off anyways and through this question, I encourage our audience to find the motivation necessary to do all the stuff we talked about today.
0:40:03.2 WB: Now I’m hopeful as well, that many will. Brenden, where will people go to find you?
0:40:11.5 BK: Absolutely Wayne. So two ways to keep in touch. The first one is the YouTube channel MasterTalks. You can type MasterTalk in one word, access to hundreds of free videos on how to speak. And number two is our free communication workshop. I do a free one over Zoom that anyone in the world can attend. And it’s live and interactive and super fun, and I facilitate it. So if you want to jump on that, go to rockstarcommunicator.com.
0:40:35.5 WB: We’ll put it in the show notes as well. It’s been an absolutely delightful, enlightening, wonderful conversation, Brenden. I’m so happy that we finally got the opportunity to come together. I’m very eager to stay in contact, and I really hope that our audience does reach out and connect with you. You’re a wealth of knowledge. And for our audience base, who are primarily executive talents, this has to be a foundational part of your toolkit. You have to have the ability to communicate and in all manners of scenarios. Brenden is an expert in this field. So I highly encourage that everyone goes and connects with Brenden. So Brenden, thank you very much. I really look forward to staying connected. It’s been a pleasure to have you on the ET Project.
0:41:28.8 BK: Pleasure was absolutely mine, Wayne. Thanks for the warm welcome, and it’s great to be on your show.
0:41:35.6 S2: Thank you for joining us on the ET Project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time, check out our site for free videos, e-books, webinars, and blogs at Coaching4Companies.com.