The Persistence and Determination of the Honey Badger

I was scouring YouTube a few days ago and stumbled upon this video of the Honey Badger. I’m not referring to this one, which almost everyone has become familiar with but rather the video below.

After watching the video, I was shocked and in awe of the persistence and determination that this honey badger showed.

Whatever obstacle was put in front of this Honey Badger, who goes by the name of Stoffel, he would overcome it. They tried to calm him down by bringing in a companion. What did the honey badger do, he made her his accomplice.

They built a Honey Badger Alcatraz, and in no time the Honey Badger figured a way out. Stoffel, started to climb trees and leveraged his weight on the branches to bring him down to the edge of the enclosure.

They cut the branches and trees down, but yet the honey badger overcame that obstacle. He started digging up stones and rolling them to corner of the enclosure and climbed his way out.

Whatever measures the zoo keepers took to keep the Honey Badger locked up. He overcame it. But how was this possible?

It’s because Stoffel was persistent and determined to achieve his goal.

His goal was to get out and be free.

He had an all-consuming desire to do whatever he could to be free. He even recruited a friend to help him…now that’s leadership.

But the honey badger’s determination and persistence to overcome an obstacle is similar to what we must do to achieve our goals.

  • We have to overcome obstacles, some big, some small.
  • We have to be committed to that goal and not stop until its achieved.
  • We have to recruit the help of others, if we can’t do it on our own.

There have been times that wanted to throw in the towel and sometimes, I did. At the time the challenge to accomplish that goal was to daunting. Then, sometime in the future, maybe an hour, a day or even longer, and I’m beating myself up over not overcoming the challenge to achieve a goal I set for myself. I lost that persistence and determination for that challenge. And when I think about why I didn’t accomplish the goal or overcome the obstacle I feel like I failed myself.

How many of you have had that same feeling?

After I have that feeling I want to go out and find a new goal or go back to that old one, and destroy it. But now after watching Stoffel, the Honey Badger, I no longer want any challenge to stand in front of me that I will not try to overcome.

What challenges are you failing to overcome because of lack of persistence or determination?

How You Open Your Speech Matters

open your speech
I did my homework and crafted a magnetic title for my speech. The title however, didn’t provide any direction for the audience. But I believe the title of my speech had the audience intrigued enough to pay attention to the opening of my speech.

As I walked up to the stage I played out the plan in my head of how I would grab the audience’s attention and finish my opening with a question, followed by an answer.

After I was introduced I began executing my plan of grabbing the audience’s attention, with a 3 startling facts. Then I finished the opening of my speech with asking a direct question to someone sitting in the front row. I caught the audience member off guard and he didn’t come up with the right answer.

This worked out great for three reasons.

1. It shifted the audience’s gaze from me to the person sitting in the front. This allowed me to move towards the center of the stage to setup the final part of my opening, the correct answer to the question I asked of the audience member.

2. It showed the audience that this would be an interactive speech and that at any moment I could call on someone in the audience. I felt by doing this I would gain the audience’s undivided attention. Who wants to be caught not paying attention?

3. It left the audience hanging. Wait what’s the answer?

Feeling that I had everyone where I wanted, I plopped my butt in the medal folding chair and answered the question with not only my words, but my body.

I took a chance by asking an audience member a direct question as a part of the opening of my speech. It could have backfired, but what’s life, if you’re too scared to take any chances?

Knowing I had accomplished the goal of grabbing the audience’s attention with my opening made the rest of my speech much easier to deliver. Why? Because I had something to hold onto, the audience’s attention!

I was able to perk the audience’s interest from the onset with a thought provoking title, that provided no real direction for my speech, but intrigued the audience just enough to pay attention to the opening of my speech.

With the shortened attention span of people today, it is critical to have an opening that grabs the audience’s attention. The rest of your speech should be designed to hold the audience attention. Now if you fail to grab hold of your audience with your opening, your speech will have nothing to hold onto.

What are you doing to grab your audience’s attention?

Engage Your Audience with Questions

engage your audience with questionsOne of the easiest ways to engage your audience is to ask them questions. You can ask those questions at the beginning of your speech, during your speech and after your speech.

You may want to ask close ended or hypothetical questions at the beginning of your speech. With close ended questions you’re qualifying the audience and setting a direction for the speech. With a hypothetical question you are setting the audience up for a possible solution, at the end of your speech.

If you fail to engage your audience you will only be speaking to yourself.

Throughout the speech you need to reinforce your points. You do this by asking the right questions throughout your speech. Some examples of what I like to call reinforcing questions are:

  • Do you know what I mean?
  • Have you ever felt like that before?
  • Have you ever been in a situation like that before?

When you ask reinforcing questions, you engage the audience and bring them back to the point that you just made. Reinforcing questions help your audience reflect on the point you just made in your speech.

Say for example, you have a few people that don’t understand the last point you spoke on. If you don’t ask any questions during your speech, you will never know if people understand your points.

When asking reinforcing questions, you may discover that some people didn’t quite get the last point you spoke on.  And instead of ignoring them, you now have the ability to go back and reinforce your point, so that it is crystal clear.

Asking questions after the speech is a common practice. But unless you’re a superstar or celebrity, you’re ability to keep your audience engaged, for 20 minutes or longer is difficult to do, without asking questions. If you’ve been talking for over 20 minutes and you haven’t asked a single question of the audience, you’ve lost them. Asking questions throughout the speech helps you engage the audience, it creates a meaningful dialogue and shows you care about them.

When you do finish up your speech, you don’t have to ask the dreaded “Are there any questions?” question. But when you can do is toss the speech back at the audience with a reinforcing question. Finish your speech by empowering the audience to continue the conversation with each other. Asking the right questions before, during and after a speech is a powerful way to engage your audience.

How to Connect with the Audience

audience seatsAll of those eyes looking at you can feel like the sun burning your skin on a hot summer’s day. And if you have a drastic fear of public speaking, you can get so nervous that you may forget what to say. Now one of these easiest ways to calm yourself and connect with the audience is to make eye contact. The ability to establish eye contact will ease you and your nerves before and during a public speaking event.

The power of threes is very powerful in public speaking and storytelling. But I wanted to take it one step further and apply it to the audience. Before your speech you should look for 3 people or areas in the audience, usually one is somewhere in the middle, the other 2 may be in the back or to the sides of the speaking venue. The goal is to establish direct eye contact with those people during your speech. The ability to make eye contact with people that have a friendly demeanor helps build your confidence during the speech.

If you use eye contact to connect with the audience you can make the speech conversational.

When I studied communication in college our Radio/TV professor always encouraged us to speak to the one person we felt most comfortable with in life. We were told to pretend as if we are having a conversation with them, when we were behind the microphone on the radio or staring into the camera. The reason we did this is because we had no one to make direct eye contact with. We had to imagine a person in front of us to have a conversation with. But with public speaking you have an entire audience that you can make eye contact with.

Depending on the size of the audience and the venue, you want to make eye contact with people in the middle of the audience, someone on each side of the audience and then people in the back or in the front. I like to focus on three people or areas of the audience, but in larger venues you have to focus on more than three areas of the audience.

You want the audience to feel as if you are making a connection with them.

If you are able to make eye contact with people that are nodding their heads and agreeing with you come back to them later in your speech. This will help you establish a personal connection with not only the person you are looking at, but the people sitting around that person.

Too often people fail to make eye contact with anyone in the audience. They look over the tops of people’s heads or they look at the ground and never connect with the audience.

If you have ever been to a speaking engagement where there wasn’t any eye contact made with the audience you probably didn’t buy into what the speaker was talking about. Making eye contact is critical to connecting with the audience. If you are able to connect with people in the audience by looking them in the eyes they feel as if you are speaking to them and communicating more than just words.

Start connecting with your audience using eye contact.

To become a better public speaker and communicator you need to practice every day. I’m not saying you have to get in front of groups of people every day to speak, but you need to do it in your conversations with friends, family and even strangers.

  1. eye contact conversationIn your everyday conversations with friends, family, or strangers force yourself to keep eye contact as long as possible. This will seem very uncomfortable at first, but it will help you connect with the person you are speaking too.
  2. When you get up in front of a group of people before you speak do a quick scan of the room and figure out where you want to focus your eyes at. This can be done hours, minutes, or seconds before your speech.
  3. Keep eye contact long enough to make the point you are trying to make. Don’t start shifting your eyes from person to person mid-sentence or mid-point.
  4. If you ask a question don’t start by looking one person in the eyes and then middle of the questions you look towards someone else.
  5. Look for a friendly face or faces. If you feel as if something maybe going wrong or you are getting nervous reassure yourself by focusing on the friendly face or faces.

Making eye contact with the audience will help build your confidence during a speech. You can also connect with audience little by little my using eye contact effectively. Looking people in the eyes will not only help you connect with them, but it will also help them remember the message you are delivering. Because the eyes can captivate an audience and express that which words may not be able to deliver.

The Only New Year’s Resolution You Need to Make

new years resolution 2014Every year millions or even billions of people around the world make New Year’s Resolutions. The most popular New Year’s Resolutions are getting in shape, getting a new job, or following a lifelong long passion, which can lead to starting your own business.

The problem with all of those New Year’s Resolutions are that people fail to make the most important resolution of all, Taking Action.

If you’ve been making the same resolutions for the past couple of years, then you most likely haven’t taken any action on those resolutions. It’s one thing to say you want to get in shape for 2014, but it is quite another to take the necessary actions to get in shape. If you took the necessary actions in 2013 you wouldn’t have to be making the same resolution of getting in shape in 2014.

You’ve hated your job for the past couple of years. You’ve made the same resolutions of getting a new job each and every year, but you’re still stuck at your current employer. You might have even made a plan how to go about getting your dream job. But did you take any action? Did you do anything that would increase your value as a possible candidate for your dream job?

Everyone has been telling you that you need to follow your passion. I’m not sure what your passion is but I can almost guarantee you if you fail to make a plan and take action you will never follow your passion.

This is the problem that with New Year’s Resolution is that they are bunch of empty promises. I used to make New Year’s Resolution when I was a naïve 20 something. But it wasn’t until I started to take action that I noticed I no longer needed to make New Year’s Resolution. I didn’t feel the need to make empty promises at the beginning of each year to change my life or my lifestyle. Why? Because towards the middle of the year I felt like crap because I failed to keep true to my New Year’s Resolution and nothing changed.

I got up one day; I don’t quite remember what day it was and decided that it was time to take action.

If I felt that I needed things to change I put a simple plan in place, whether it was the beginning, middle or end of the year and took action. If after certain amount of time I did or did not achieve what I wanted to achieve I would reevaluate my plan. If the plan needed to change then I changed it. If I had achieved what I wanted to achieve then I moved on.

However if I didn’t achieve something I would examine my plan and discover why it broke down. I would ask myself the following questions:

  • Is this still something you want to achieve?
  • Why do you want to achieve this or change this or do this?
  • Why did the plan break down?
  • How will achieving this goal make you a better person?
  • How can I improve upon my plan to achieve my goal(s)?

After asking myself those questions I either moved forward with that same goal or moved on to something else more important.

Now if you have struggled in the past with New Year’s Resolutions then decide to make the only resolution that matters, Take Action. If you’ve wanted to get in shape for the past 5 years, take action and get in shape. If you’ve wanted to get a new job for the past 3 years, take action and become the best candidate for your dream job. If you have wanted to follow your passion since you were a child, take action and do what matters to you.

6 Simple Steps to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

overcome your fear of public speakingYour heart begins to race, your armpits turn into water faucets, and you are having trouble remembering what you are going to talk about. Your fear of public speaking is showing its ugly face, again. Now as I’ve discussed before the fear of public speaking or glossophobia is a social anxiety disorder that causes people to have performance issues when they are speaking to, or with a group of people.

To start your quest on overcoming your fear of public speaking you are going to have to face it. Since the fear of public speaking is a phobia, you can classify it as an irrational fear. An irrational fear is a fear of a specific thing or situation that compels someone to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous.  On the other hand there are rational fears. An example of rational fear would be swimming in shark infested waters and having the fear of being attacked by a shark. Rational fears have danger written all over them.

You can overcome your fear of public speaking, because after all it’s just a fear. And fear is a strong emotion that is induced by a perceived threat. With public speaking that threat maybe rejection by the audience. Just like many other emotions fear can be controlled and overcome. And learning to overcome your fear isn’t that difficult, just follow the 6 ways below.

1. Identify your fear.

You’ve already taken the first step to overcoming your fear of public speaking. You’ve identified that you have fear of public speaking, and since that fear is irrational you can take the steps below to overcome it.

2. Determine how to build your confidence in public speaking.

You can start by reciting your speeches to yourself or in front of mirror. Yes talking to yourself is highly encouraged in public speaking. If you have friends or family members that are supportive and genuinely want to help you overcome your fear, practice in front of them.

But in order to get better at public speaking, you are going to have to start speaking in front of other people. I highly recommend joining Toastmasters. Toastmasters helps people build communication and leadership skills in a positive and non-threatening social environment. You can find out more about the Toastmasters Educational Program or find a Toastmasters Club near you here.

3. Start speaking about what you know

If you’re civil engineer, who doesn’t follow or like sports, because you are too busy solving the world’s transportation problems, then don’t talk about sports in your speech. Talk about what you feel most comfortable with. Because the more you know about the subject matter the more confident you will feel speaking about it.

4. Eliminate the naysayers

In order to overcome your fear of public speaking, you are going to have to avoid the negative people who are dragging you down. Consider their motives for being negative towards you. 99% of the time they have troubles facing their own fears and/or feel threatened by other people’s success. This is another reason that I recommended joining Toastmasters, negativity and naysayers are not welcome. Make sure to surround yourself with positive minded people who are looking to improve themselves and their public speaking skills.

5. Change your internal dialogue.

If you keep telling yourself that you suck public speaking, then you are going to create your own self-fulfilling prophecy of sucking at public speaking. Keep assuring yourself that you are in control of your emotions and you can and will overcome your fears. Pick topics that you feel comfortable speaking about. And since you are building your confidence, little by little, in a positive environment, you don’t have to worry about knocking yourself down or failing miserably.

6. Think of the benefits of Public Speaking.

You will begin to separate yourself from the pack, by improving your skills sets and fostering confidence in yourself. The increase in confidence will help you become a better communicator, by building upon past successes and learning from your mistakes.

And finally, how many more doors will open for you in your career and personal life, when you overcome your fear of public speaking?

I’d love to hear your answers below.

Why You Have a Fear of Public Speaking

fear of public speaking microphone It was the spring of 1999, the trees outside of the classroom had just started to bloom, and my brother and I were sitting next to each other in COM 1010 Oral Communication or Public Speaking Class at Wayne State University. It was the last week of the semester and we were all scheduled to give our final speech in front of 20 or more classmates.

As my brother and I sat in our desks a classmate of ours walked towards the front of the room and began speaking about his fraternity. No more than 30 seconds into the speech and things started to take a turn for the worse. The kids face started to turn red, his forehead began to perspire, and he began to lean backwards ever so slightly. Before anyone could react the kid had hit the point of no return. He lost control of his body and fell backwards as if someone hit him with a bat.

As we rushed to front of the room to help him he jumped up as if nothing had happened and dashed out the room.

I did manage to run into the kid at the gym about a week later and asked him if everything was alright and what had happened to him that day. He started to tell me how he couldn’t remember even getting up in front of the classroom and speaking. He continued to tell me how he was deathly afraid of speaking in front of people and that he’s always had a fear of public speaking.Being a somewhat naïve 18 year old I had never heard of the fear of public speaking and took what I was being told as an excuse for not finishing his speech.

Now as time has passed and I’ve broadened my horizons; I’ve come to discover that the fear of public speaking is real. I’ve never experienced it myself as my fellow classmate did. But I do have the occasional jitters before a big presentation or speech, but I’ve come to know a lot of people over the years that are deathly afraid of speaking in public.

The vast majority of people that have a fear of public speaking tend to blame it on bad past experiences, a fear of being ridiculed by the audience, or not knowing everything about the subject they are going to be speaking about. This all seems quite silly considering that none of those reasons are based on the person’s ability to speak.

But why do people have a fear of public speaking?

The fear of public speaking or Glossophobia is considered to be a social anxiety disorder where individuals suffer from performance issues when they speak in front of a group of people. In the case of my fellow classmate he couldn’t finish his speech because the fear took control of his body.

Knowing that Glossophobia is a form of social anxiety you can better understand why you have developed a fear of public speaking.

Social anxiety is the fear of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people, leading to feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and embarrassment. Those feelings can and will affect your performance when speaking in front of a group of people. And when you can’t perform you start building doubt not only in yourself, but in your audience’s vision of who you are. This doubt can lead to some evolutionary triggers in our brains.

To our ancestors being part of a group was critical to their survival. As hunter gathers there was always strength in numbers. Our ancestors hunted in groups, they gathered food in groups and they raised their families in groups. Their main source of protection was being part of a group.

Our ancestors might have been banished by a group for a variety of reasons, not doing their fair share of work, doing something which was disapproved of, or challenging the leader(s). If they were separated from a group it meant death was on the horizon. So being an accepted member of the group was critical to survival of us as human beings.fear of public speaking ancestors

But what do our ancestors and being part of a group, have to with your fear of public speaking?

Although our surroundings and lifestyles have changed in the last hundreds of thousands years, we as humans still have the same universal desires as our ancestors. Those desires are to be accepted and approved of by others.

When it comes to public speaking you may be seeking the acceptance and approval of the group you are speaking to or with. This is where your primal brain can take over. Your brain can send you a signal that if you don’t get the approval of the group you’re speaking to, you could be banished. And banishment to our primal brain is a sign of danger.

If your brain has any inclination that you’re in danger, your adrenaline will begin flowing, which triggers your heart to race, your face to turn red, and your body to sweat. This is a great reaction to have when our ancestors were evolving and in times of real danger today. However this reaction by your brain, isn’t so useful, when you are speaking to a group of people and want to convey an image of credibility and professionalism.

As I look back to that spring day in 1999 and picture the kid who passed out in my college public speaking class, a couple things come to mind:

  • He could hold a great conversation one on one and never displayed any speaking problems when I talked to him before or after the incident.
  • During his speech he displayed the classic primal response to danger, his face turned red, he began to sweat and then he passed out.
  • Upon waking up he darted out the door, without any memory of what happened.
  • At first fellow classmates were shocked but then they laughed at him when he darted out the door.
  • The laughter of his classmates, the group, not only assured the disapproval of the speech but only reinforced the kid’s fear of public speaking.

How many times have you or someone you know fell victim to their fear of public speaking? I’d love to hear your comments below.

Design to Engage: Presentation Workshop

Design to Engage: A Visual Presentation Journey

A workshop I delivered at the 2013 District 28 Toastmasters Fall Conference to help fellow Toastmasters improve their PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, and Visual Presentation Skills.

This journey of designing and delivering visual presentations will help you engage audiences and launch them into action. Learn a simple approach to crafting content that connects and keeps your message in focus. Whether a first-timer slide builder or expert stuck in a rut, this slideshow is for you!

Design to Engage the Process

design to engageThere is a 3 part process to designing a presentation that I have been using for quite some time. It is ever evolving and changing to continually improve itself. Below is the a quick overview of the parts and process used to design effective presentations that engage audiences.

1) Plan Your Presentation:

This is where you will lay the foundation for your presentation. Start analog, use a notebook or white board to collect your thoughts before asking yourself the important questions of Why? What is My Message? Who Is My Audience? How Much Time Do I Have? Do I Need Slideware?

You will also layout and storyboard your presentation in the in this part of the process.

Plan, Edit, Sleep, and Repeat until you are Ideas are structured in such a way that they support your message and make your message deliverable to your audience.

2) Construct Your Presentation:

Construct your slides in a way that you give your audience what they want in a presentation; clarity, meaning, and content. Limit text to a bare minimum, practice restraint within your slides by keeping 1 idea per slide, don’t be afraid to use images over lines of text, and remember that less is more.

3) Deliver Your Presentation:

Rehearse, Edit, Sleep, and Repeat your presentation until your words and slides convey your message(s). On the day of your presentation, check the equipment for compatibility and ease of use, bring a backup or your presentation, invest in a presentation clicker, use your laptop as a teleprompter/monitor, and do not handout your slides before your presentation. If need be you can have a handout distributed after your presentation.

Your slides should be useless without you, because you are the presentation.designing a presentation

Storytelling with Visuals

storytellingEarlier today there was a PowerPoint Presentation given by a man who thought he was going to change the world. He had spent weeks preparing the most eye appealing presentation that he had ever produced. The visuals were breathtaking, the bullet points were non-existent, and he even had a handout at the end of the presentation. But the man who thought he was going to change the world had failed to engage his audience with the most powerful tool known to mankind – Storytelling.

Storytelling is how you remember most things. Some of the most memorable events in your life can be remembered by telling the story of how this or that happened. Superstitions are based upon beliefs that are driven by the power of storytelling. Marketing does a fantastic job of creating customers by telling effective stories that make you go out and buy this or that.

Now why did the man, who thought he was going to change the world, fail to use storytelling to engage his audience?

It’s because he was focused on visuals, hard data, and bits of information, rather than drawing in his audience with a story of why they should listen, why they should care, and why they should take action.

Not every presentation is designed for someone to take action. Some are just designed to inform or make a point. However, you still need to weave a story with your visuals and information. You not only have to engage your audience but you need to put them in the passenger seat on the journey you are about to take them on.

Although his PowerPoint presentation was very visually engaging and he didn’t read off the slides, as so many others do, he failed to tell a story that the audience could relate to. He made the mistake of only focusing on what he wanted to talk about, as opposed to how he could relate the data and bits of information to the audience.

The easiest way of relating almost anything to any audience is personalizing it through a story. Steve Jobs was notorious for his storytelling and visual presentations that used data to reinforce the points he was trying to convey. He related his vision of the iPhone by showing people that cellphone technology in 2007 was either “not smart or too complicated to use.” The iPhone was going to be the “easy to use smartphone” that people didn’t know they wanted.

Data and bits of information can be important features in any presentation, but they are useless if you fail to engage the audience. Before you begin building your visual presentation you need to start crafting a story that relates to the audience you will be speaking to. Use the visuals, data, and the bits of information to reinforce the points that you are trying to convey with your story.

Storytelling with visuals is a journey, which you will not perfect the first, second, or tenth time but you will become better at it each time you use it to convey your message.