My first paid speech

Israel-speechHow would you like to get paid for your speeches? Frankly, I never have thought about it. Yet, this month I went to Israel to deliver four 1.5 hours lectures. To someone who still is not completely free of stuttering, this is a big accomplishment. It is a big accomplishment even for those who never have stuttered. So what lessons I have learned?

First of all, I agree with a wonderful Patricia Fripp that nobody get paid just because they are good at speaking. People pay for your expertise, for something that you happen to know and they need to learn. Taking this into account, an ability to deliver an engaging speech is a big plus.

I went to Israel to deliver talks about science in skin care – this is an area in which I am an expert. Long time ago my friend, Elena Hernandez and I started a Russian journal dedicated to cosmetic science. At this time in Russia there were plenty of newly founded cosmetic companies and very little understanding how all these modern cosmetic ingredients work. Armed with our medical and biological education and being able to read scientific papers in English, we were able to bring this knowledge to Russia. Now as a private consultant to cosmetic companies, I am still regarded as an expert on this subject.., at least in Russia.

Well, you may ask, what Israel and Russia have in common? I will say, “people”. I delivered my talks to a large audience of Russian-speaking cosmetologists – some of them came from Russia just to hear me speak and some came from Russia long time ago.

My main impression – Speaking is fun. The more I speak, the more I love it. Another thought – it would be even more fun have I prepared better. Don’t get me wrong – I prepared the material, and I prepared the slides, but I didn’t have enough time to really rehearse the speeches as I do with my 5-7 talks in Toastmasters. It is one thing to find 10-20 five to seven minutes intervals and another – to rehearse 6 hours worth of materials in less then two months, during which I had to deal with many other things. So here is something to remember – if you stutter or stuttered, make sure you will have time to rehearse. Delivered material that is tightly written and that rolls of the tongue is so much easier.

However, lesson two. If for some reason you (just like) weren’t able to invest in rehearsing – just let it go and have fun. When after an impressive stretch of free-flowing speech I would come to a stumbling point, I would joke about it or simply tell the audience – “Ok, now it is your time to talk, let’s see what points you can recall.” Or I would ask a question or do some activity. If I haven’t had all those years in Toastmasters and improvisation classes, I would certainly lose my coolness. So lesson three – don’t skip steps. Being invited to speak was flattering, however, it was all this preparatory work that made it so enjoyable.

All in all, I loved the experience. It was definitely a challenge, but what is life without challenges.


Fuzzy slippers

Today I attended a special Toastmasters meeting. International President George Yen came all the way from Taiwan to speak at our District Conference and stopped to visit one of the clubs.

I liked what he said in his welcoming speech. He said that to him public speaking is a way of self-discovery. When I approached him after the meeting and said that I agree, he exclaimed, “I am surprised you know it – it took me 20 years to learn it!” I took it as a compliment. I know I look younger than my age.

But this post nevertheless is about fuzzy slippers. This (strange it may seem), was the theme of the meeting. The Toastmaster of the day, Rebecca, a blond lady with a pleasant and warm voice, actually brought her own pink fuzzy slippers to the meeting.

She said, “When I come home, I take off my shoes and slip into my fuzzy slippers. This tells me that I am home, I am safe and now I can relax and be vulnerable. I found the same is true about toastmasters meetings. It is a place where we can take off the armor, relax and be ourselves. It is a safe place.”

Since I became a certified hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner I appreciate good metaphor when I see one. Warm, fuzzy slippers. A special place. A special place of mind that let us know that we are safe. At the end she asked, “What is your fuzzy slippers? What do you do to relax and feel safe?”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could put our invisible fuzzy slippers on any time we want. And especially when we speak – just close our eyes, slip into warm, pink, fuzzy slippers, and feel comfort spreading all over our skin. I believe we can learn it. I believe we can learn to enjoy any speaking experience – whether it is public speaking or a quiet chat with our close friend.

The curse of identity

I listen to an audiobook “Love your voice” by Roger Love. Roger Love is a celebrity voice coach who coached people like Tony Robbins, Michael Jackson etc. He knows his stuff. He said something that resonated with me greatly.

When a person starts working on his or her voice, they are often disappointed to learn that they need to do a lot of routine vocal exercises every day. “Come on! Can you just show us how to speak differently?” Yet, it is impossible, because inside your brain there is a part that has a very important job. This part constantly listens to the sound of your voice and compares it to the voice stored in its memory. When it deviates too much, it says “Uh-oh, you are losing your identity. Go back to where you were.”

He said he once worked with a boy who had a severe stutter. At the end of the session, the boy was speaking fluently and his mother had tears in her eyes.

When they left, Roger started waiting for the mother to call him with more exciting news. He waited to hear how the boy’s new voice magically changed his life in school. Yet there was no call. Finally he called her himself and asked how the boy was doing. She said that he went back to his stutter. His friends kept commenting on how strange he sounded and he also felt not himself. So stuttering was something that felt familiar. Something that felt like his true identity. He finally abandoned his new voice and resumed stuttering.

When I went to speech therapy years ago this is how I always felt. I thought that I was giving some unnatural techniques which made my voice sound strange and unnatural. But now I see that people who do not stutter also have to put plenty of effort into developing proper breathing and learning to link all words together without weird stops and fillers. And they just like people who stutter often feel strange doing this.

It feels strange when you learn to use your voice and your breathing differently. However, if you persist you will start sounding much better regardless of whether you stutter or now.

If you are interested in developing a good speaking voice, I highly recommend getting this CD. It contains simple, but practical strategies for voice improvement. To people who stutter it may feel like going back to speech therapy. But the difference is that you are not being taught techniques specially developed for people who stutter, but methods that good speakers use to become great speakers. It takes time and you may feel that you sound strange and unnatural at first, but after a while you will start loving your new voice.

My longest speech so far

me-speak-sMy husband never stuttered and never did any public speaking. This is why when I said to him, “Honey, today I will deliver a 45 minute speech,” he said, “Ok. Good for you.”

What have I expected? Well, something like, “Yeah, you go girl, you are terrific!”. But this was another confirmation that we attach much more meaning to speaking successes or failures than other people. To him it was just “one more speech”. To me it was a great accomplishment.

I delivered a speech about my journey on overcoming stuttering to a group of retirement community residents. Not only it was a speech about stuttering delivered to people who don’t stutter, but it was also a speech delivered outside of a safe and warm Toastmasters environment. It was also the longest speech I have ever delivered.

The room was just a recreational area right near the dining area. I could hear clanking of the dishes and it was easy for people to come and go. One person left during my speech. Several joined my audience. After the speech the activity director said to me, “Wow, they were really interested. Usually it is hard to keep them from leaving. At this point of life, many do not care much about being polite. If they are bored, they just get up and go.”

My biggest reward was a lady who suffered progressive memory loss. She said, “After your speech, I become inspired to fight. I will fight to remember as much from my life as I could. And then, who knows, may be I’ll give a speech too.”

It is a great feeling when you touch someone’s life. This what makes all my efforts worthwhile.

When  people hear how much time I spend attending toastmasters and practicing public speaking skills, they often exclaim, “Why do you do it?” Such moment as when I looked into the eyes of this old lady and heard that I inspired her, is the reason “Why.” It is no longer about stuttering, it is about being able to express myself and inspire others.

How to win a humorous speech contest

Anna-District-winRecently I was asked to give a speech about a speech. To be more precise how to write a contest level humorous speech. As you may know last year I became the District 2 Humorous Speech Champion. This was my third attempt to win the humorous speech contest. I succeeded because this time I took time to do my research.

Have you ever looked at your life and thought, “It is just not funny.” This is what I did a year ago in September when I came back from my Hawaiian vacation and realized that I have one week to prepare for the humorous speech contest. And I didn’t have a speech. And the more I looked into my life for funny situations, the more I couldn’t find any.
What do you do when you feel stuck? I went on You Tube.  Not to steal anybody’s speeches. (Never steal from your fellow toastmasters!) But to see what other people had that was so funny in their life!

So here is the first tip –  if you want to win a Humorous speech contest, go check out other people’s speeches. It is very difficult to be creative in isolation. See the pattern, see what works and how they do it. In just three days I learned more about humor than I did in my 4 years in Toastmasters.
Imagine me sitting before my computer wearing headphones and saying, “aha!”. I had a revelation. If you want to win a humorous speech contest, you have to have plenty of punch lines and you have to have them coming and coming. Most champion speeches had from 10 to 15 laughs in a 5-7 min speech. Your first punch line should be within the first 30 seconds of your opening.

You may think, “Oh, this is obvious”. But this is not what I normally did. I usually would start telling a story. And it would take me a while to get to the funny part. And all that time as I now realize, my audience would sit there, thinking, “Come on, Come on, where the first joke?!”. And some of those audience members were judges.
Rather than trying to find a funny situation in your life (especially if you cannot think of any) just think of something that you find amusing. Think what you enjoy joking about. I don’t know what you like to joke about, but I have my husband.
By the way, do you know why people laugh? I never thought about it before the last year. Apparently all you need to make people laugh is to start leading them in one direction and then suddenly derail their train of thought. Yes, when you can almost see their minds running ahead of you, trying to figure out what will come next, you trick them.
But it is not enough to deliver your punch line. You also need to make sure to pack a punch into your punch line. For example, if you just say your punch line the same way as the rest of the sentence, your audience may not realize that it was a punch line. Some people are not that quick. This is why it is so important to make sure that you pause before your punch line. This pause will signal that something important is coming.

Next, mark the punch line with your intonation. Your punch line should be louder and slightly higher than the rest of the sentence. This way even if your audience doesn’t quite get the joke, or doesn’t get your accent, they’ll know where to laugh.
And finally last piece of advice. Do you know what the next step after you successfully delivered your punch line? Shut up. What usually happens is that we try to squeeze 9 minute of material into 5-7 minute speech. As you may know, in a contest if you speak longer than 7:30 sec you are disqualified even if your audience has been rolling on the floor laughing the entire time.

So imagine, your audience laugh and laugh…  and the clock is ticking… However, if you start speaking before the laughter starts dying away, you  step on the audience’s enjoyment. Remember – some of those people are judges. This is why your speech should be no longer than 6 min – max. In this case you will have plenty of time for laughter. My speech was 6 min. It took me 7 min 29 (!) min to deliver – because of all that laughter and extra pauses.
In short, if you aspire to win a humorous speech contest, go on You Tube. It is not easy to be creative in isolation. See what other people do, see what works. Think of a topic that you find amusing and start creating your punch lines. When it is time to deliver them, don’t forget to pause (not pose) before the punch line. Mark your punch line with intonation. And after you deliver it – very important – shut up and let your audience laugh.

Dr. Bandler


When I asked my NLP trainers, “Now, where can I train more?”, they said without hesitation, “If you want to be really good, go study with Dr. Richard Bandler.” On which I answered, “He is still alive?!!!”

Later I discovered that there indeed were rumors about Dr. Richard Bandler’s  untimely demise not so long ago. But the reason I was surprised is not because I listened to those rumors, but because to me Dr. Bandler, one of the two founding fathers of Neuro Linguistic Programming, was a kind of legendary figure. I never thought of him as of someone I can meet. I never imagined I can actually go and study directly from him.  One example how your imagination can limit your possibilities. But as soon as I knew it was possible, I decided to go for it.

And here I was in steaming Orlando, sitting in a large conference room, listening to this incredible man…

When I signed up for a seminar, I didn’t have any idea what it was. I knew it was called Design Human Engineering, but the description was so vague, I had no choice but to come with an open mind. It was a right thing to do.

I won’t attempt to explain what Design Human engineering (DHE) is. I will say only that it is another breakthrough from Dr. Bandler. It is a way of going from merely correcting a problem toward enhancing all aspects of human life. Having more fun. Enjoying life more. Going toward your goals faster. Utilizing more resources in your mind. Communicating with your unconscious mind more effectively.

For example, you may use NLP to reduce your stutter or eliminating your fear of public speaking  as I did.  But then you may want to throw in some DHE to make speaking fun and to start moving toward greater enjoyment, more fulfillment and happiness. This is what I am doing now.

DHE is about using your imagination and your mind’s ability to go into an altered state so you could have any good feelings you want and any internal state you want when you need. It is about stopping spending your life’s precious moments on hesitation, negative self-talk and painful memories. It is about creating the life you want.

After this seminar I realized something. Deep inside I still was hanging to my past. Still kept revisiting some painful memories (oh, yes, growing up and living with severe stuttering tends to do this to people). But as Dr. Bandler says, “I know many people like reliving their childhood. I didn’t like mine. Once was enough.” As he wrote me when signing a book, “The time is now… Plus then.”

As I understand it DHE way of doing things is to take all resources and all wonderful memories and all giggles and playfulness from your past, leave behind what you do not want and start enjoying your present while creating a wonderful future. The big DHE question as Dr. Bandler puts it, “Are we having fun yet.?”


What happens in Vegas…

new-york-hotelJust picture yourself in Vegas. Enormous elaborate hotels. Noisy, bustling, smoking, drinking crowd. 119 degree of Fahrenheit… In the shade.

And now imagine driving away from all of this – about 1.5 miles from The Strip and spending two days in a conference room of a Marriott Hotel. Not your typical Las Vegas vacation. But this is exactly what I did.

This year I finally fulfilled my dream – I attended Get Coached to Speak Champ Camp. As the name implies, at this camp you have a chance to get coached by champions. But this is only if you sign for one of the 6 VIP seats. I have been thinking about it, but then decided to come as an observer – just a simple, inconspicuous member of the audience. Was I glad I did!

Imagine a conference room with about 30 people. Six of them look considerably more tense than the rest. Yes, those are VIPs. Their goal is to present a 10 minute speech, get it ripped apart by the most brutal and nitpicking evaluation I ever witnessed and then come back the next day with a revised version. Piece of cake.

If you are in Toastmasters you can recall how your speeches are usually evaluated. First, a thick layer of sugar coat. Then “a couple of suggestions” and a hefty dose of enthusiastic encouragement. Great job! I am looking forward to your next speech.

At this camp, speakers were evaluated by two incredible individuals – a man with a cleanly shaven head and thin glasses – 2001 World Champion of Public speaking Darren Lacroix. And a petite lady with a surprisingly strong voice – one of the best speaking coaches in America Patricia Fripp. Talk about pressure.

Yet at the end I wished I were one of those speakers. Yes, their ego suffered some heavy punches. Yes, they learned more about their unhelpful speaking habits than they probably wished. But the transformation we witnessed on the second day, when they incorporated these suggestions and did their best to follow their coaches advice, was astonishing.

One speaker actually got the standing ovation. And Patricia Fripp run toward him and said “Look at my eyes. Do you see a little wet? This is what you did.” Would you like in one night to become a speaker who can make one of the best speech coaches cry?

One of the most useful tips that I got out of this – Let the audience participate in your speech. When they laugh – shut up, let them enjoy it. When you ask a question – be interested in the answer and give them time to mentally answer. When you paint a picture – leave something for your audience imagination to fill in. When you make your audience an active participant in your speech, you enjoy connection that you never could even dream of.

I want to go again next year. And who knows. May be this time I will stand on this stage and feel my ego punched and kicked by two brutal coaches. One more way to have more fun when speaking – learn how to be really good. Let go of your ego, sit at the feet of the masters and be a sponge. And then go out there and try new things – be uncomfortable, suffer, fall on your face, but then dust yourself off, get up and try again.


Black belt speaking

blackbelt-sergey-group1This weekend I attended a black belt award ceremony in my husband’s taekwondo school.

After he and other students received their brand new black belts and uniforms, their grandmaster gave a short speech. He said “When people start learning taekwondo, they often find it very hard. Many just quit after several weeks or months, because of all this hard work. But those who remain and finally work their way up to the black belt, discover that what they considered hard work, is now lots of fun.”

Isn’t this the same with speaking? When you start learning the art of public speaking and communication, especially if you, like me, have a speech impediment, it may seem like hard work.

You need discipline, you need to develop habits of continuing practice and you need to learn how to survive painful falls and embarrassing performances. Many quit. I heard many people who stutter asking, “Why I have to work so hard on my speech?”

But in fact many people who do not stutter often have to work hard on their speech initially. I remember listening to a World Champion of Public Speaking Dana Lamont, who is blind. I kept thinking how much work did he have to put into his speech. When you are blind even going to a Toastmasters meeting is a challenge. And you have a legal excuse if you want to quit – it is just too hard!

Many people who do not stutter and are not blind also have hard time working on their speech. Simply finding time for preparing speeches is a challenge. Many quit. But if you don’t quit, if you continue working hard toward your “black belt speech”, you will get an unexpected reward. What once was a hard work, now becomes fun.

Most people quit. Few persist. What is your choice? Are you willing to work toward your black belt in speaking? Or you prefer to keep finding excuses why you cannot attend a toastmasters meeting or why you didn’t have time to prepare for your speech?

I may not be at black belt level with my speaking yet, however, I already know – what once seemed like hard work, now became lots of fun.

It is all about your audience

For the past several months I have been immersing myself in the wisdom of champions. I have been listening to CDs and watching DVDs from World Champions Craig Valentine and Darren Lacroix (ok, how come they both are champions? Well, Craig won in 1999 and Darren in 2001).

If I can distill the essence of what I learned it would be – It is not about YOU, all about your audience.

Yes, shocking, isn’t it? When you step on that stage and speak, it is not about you being the most fluent, entertaining, confident, smooth-talking, funny, witty and well-dressed person. It is about the change that you will make in your audience’s hearts and lives.

Recently, I became certified as an NLP practitioner. It was the best thing I ever did to change my own speech. No I am not talking there about fluency. I am talking about my mind focus when I speak.

When you do NLP, you have to watch the person you talk to. You absolutely must listen very carefully what he or she says and how she says this. And you absolutely must  use all your mental focus to find the best technique, the best intervention to help this person. As you do this, guess what happens? You feel power flowing freely through you. You feel words flowing freely out of your mouth and you feel joy from connecting to another human being.

Now imagine what would happen if you always communicated with that focus. If every time you are on stage, you would listen to your audience, watch them intently and use all your mental energy to find the best way to convey your message and to make sure your message will produce some positive changes.

Trust me. If you start thinking like this – there will be no fear, no hesitancy, no “ummm” moments and you will really enjoy this experience.

Are you having fun speaking yet? What stops you? Imagine what would happen if you did?


Play Speech with Emiko Hori

DarrenAndMyBook-Emiko Are you tired of the same old books on public speaking? Yes, the ones that list dozen things you need to keep in mind while you are speaking. The ones that are supposed to make you a better speaker, but instead only make you envious of all those confident and eloquent speakers who do not have to struggle with their body language and vocal variety.

Would you like another approach?

Recently I came across a book  titled “Let’s Play Speech.” To my delight the author of the book turned out to be a fellow toastmaster I know – Emiko Hori. I always enjoy watching Emiko – she is full of passion and energy and has a personality that radiates warmth and enthusiasm.

This is a very unusual book. Firs of al, it is very practical. Each chapter contain tools and steps that you can immediately put to use. Second, it is very original. Emiko takes performance tools developed by performing musicians and transfers them into speaking.

Here is in her own words, “Did you know there are many similarities between piano performance and public speaking? They both have a clear message to deliver in front of the audience. They both impact the audience’s life and way of thinking.”

So would you like to know what musicians would do, feel and think on stage? Would you like to know how you can change your thinking? Would you like to have confidence to perform in front of thousand people? Would you like an ability to influence your audience emotions and make sure they get your message?

Another part I love, “When I am presenting on stage, my entire body becomes an ear.” “While I am speaking, the audience usually listens quietly to my presentation. In this silence, I can listen and feel their unspoken response to my “music”.”

Wow, this is powerful! If you ever witnessed a self-absorbed speaker who has no connection to the audience and listens only to himself (herself) you know that listening to the audience is a rare skill.

Well, this book is filled with such gems of advice. Get it today, you will make a worthwhile investment. Not only you will grow as a speaker, not only you will have more fun speaking, but you will greatly increase your power to change lives of your listeners.

Here is where you can get the book: