How to Get to the World Championships of Public Speaking with John Andrews

The road to the World Championships of Public Speaking is riddled with obstacles. In fact almost 300,000 speakers from across the world come together every year desperately yearning to stand on stage as the worlds best speaker. My guest today was one of the .0003% of speakers who’ll ever cross the world stage and fortunately for us, he’s here to share how we can too.

John Andrews Headshot.jpeg

In 2017, John Andrews became just the 11th person in the history of District 60 to compete in the final round of the World Championships. Recognized by Toastmasters from around the world, he’s currently finishing up his World Class Speech Coaching Certification so that he can share his insight with the world. If you’re not contest ready, John’s tips will surely help bridge that gap.

(If you’d prefer these tips in video, click this link)

World Class Speech Preparation

As you can imagine, no serious competitor writes a world class speech overnight. John believes that most world championship speeches will take a minimum of 3-4 weeks to write. In our interview John said, “Speech prep starts the day the last competition ends.”

Therefore, if you haven’t already started to prepare for the 2019 International Speech competition, you’re behind! You mind be thinking, “that’s crazy” or “that’s unrealistic” and to that, John would say you’re right. Unless, you want to be the best. As a speaker who’s gleaned a lot of insight from past World Champions like Darren LaCroix and Craig Valentine, John and other serious competitors hold themselves to a higher standard.

John recalled a lesson he learned early in his speaking journey from Darren, “When Darren first started speaking, he joined 4 Toastmasters club. In the early days he would drive 2 hours both ways to do a 10 minute stand up comedy performance. He was obsessed with stage time.”

So when I asked John for his best advice for ambitious speakers who want to be world class, he said that nothing beats stage time. Nothing beats a commitment to excellence. Nothing beats hard work. In addition, he reminds us that regardless of the goal, there will always be someone who wants it a little more than we do. Someone willing to put in more hours, study harder and grind longer.

If you have talent, good for you. But talents not enough in this game. Like my good friend Kevin Rempel always says,

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

John also recommended a few rapid fire tips to help set you up for success in the next competition season:

  1. Record your speech on video. Video doesn’t lie. All of the nuances and subtleties that are missed during feedback from friends and fellow Toastmasters will be captured on video. Ensure your improvement process is systematic and objective. Take the time to review the video and look for where your body language distracts from your message. For where you could add more humour or where you can make the slightest improvements in delivery, structure or content. Check out my video about videotaping yourself here.
  2. Follow the speech objectives. Many Toastmasters in John’s opinion are moving from speech to speech and manual to manual for external validation. Not for the sake of learning and their personal development. If you want to be world class like John, you’ll need to upgrade your skills. How do you do that? Follow closely the curriculum Toastmasters has laid out for us! The projects have tips, objectives, and a systematic approach to our improvement as communicators and leaders. The next speech you give, follow the manual to the letter, you’ll be surprised how much more you grow.
  3. Have a strong message. If there was only one piece of advice John could give to speakers it would be this one. John believes that having a strong message is the most important factor in your public speaking success. All of the work we do at Toastmasters to develop your skills in delivery, content and structure are only to back up and support your message. They are not the show, the message is the show. Focus all of your time and efforts into coming up with a message that is powerful and can change the world. If you have a weak message, it’s likely no level of speaking competence can bring you back from the grave you’ve just personally dug.

Lessons From Death

I, like the Stoics, are strong believers that death should be seen as motivation. Death is not something to be avoided or fought, but embraced. And in doing so it’s actually a formula for great insights, breakthroughs and wisdom. John Andrews, is no different. After years of being a Licensed Funeral Director, he’s seen it all.

“There were days,” John recalled, “where I’d wake up in the morning and think to myself, ‘I wish my apartment was bigger or I wish the ceilings were higher (ditto brother) or I wish the appliances were nicer,’ and then after a long day at work I’d come home and be so grateful for everything I had in my life. Not having to bury my child or my parents that day was enough for me to realize how beautiful my life was and how much I really have.”

Remembering that we are mortal, that any given day could be our last, or our parents last, or our best friends last, should be motivation enough to squeeze every last drop out of this existence we call life. Whether we’re a stay at home mom, a new Toastmaster with the dream of going to the World Championships or a student studying in University, our days are numbered. Tomorrows, never guaranteed.

My best friend and roommate Iain, is a constant reminder to me of this truth. And although it sounds morbid or pessimistic, I hope you can learn from John’s lessons from death and put your best foot forward every day. To get obsessed about your goals, to love and appreciate your family like you never have and to be true to yourself in this short life.

I know I will.

John’s Do This Directives.

  1. Get a coach. John’s had countless coaches throughout his life and many of the tips above are enough to support new speakers, those that want to go pro need a coach. Wether you want to see your blind spots, challenge yourself beyond what you thought possible or help fast forward your trajectory to success, a coach is indispensable.
  2. Don’t force your contest prep. Give yourself enough time! As we mentioned before, world class speeches aren’t written overnight. Don’t force your prep and ensure that you’re giving yourself 3-4 weeks to fully develop your contest speech.
  3. Get around humour. Wether you start hanging out with funny people, start consuming more stand up comedy or watch funny sitcoms on TV, getting around humour will dramatically increase your chances of success in Toastmasters competition. “Humour,” John says, “breaks down any barriers there are between you and your audience.” And if you want your message to resonate, if you want to ensure you’re making an impact on people’s lives and leaving them with insight to think about, you’ll need a way to their hearts. You can do that with humour. Be cautious about entering your next competition without humour, it’ll leave you at a great disadvantage.

Audio Time Stamps.

  • 00 who is John Andrews
  • 1:30 John’s 2017 championship speak
  • 2:45 road to Vancouver World Championships
  • 8:40 going from a beginner to a pro
  • 11:00 pro to world class
  • 13:30 speech prep for the next year
  • 15:00 how to prep a world class speech
  • 16:45 comedy and breaking down barriers
  • 19:25 lessons from death
  • 22:25 parable of the talents

Till next time stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “you cannot change the destination of your life overnight but you can change the direction.”

Jonathan Andrews

Out.

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From Stutter to International Speaker: Grabbing Fear by the Balls With Joze Piranian

Joze HeadshotJoze Piranian is a lifelong stutterer on the quest to confront his fears one stage at a time. After spending most of his life avoiding speaking out of the fear of being judged for being “different”, he is now a TEDx speaker, the winner of the Grand Slam competition at inspirational speaking competition Speaker Slam, and a stand-up comedian who’s performed at the Laugh Factory in Chicago, the Broadway Comedy Club in NY, Comedy Nest in Montreal and Absolute Comedy in Toronto. Joze’s mission is to share his tale of overcoming adversity in order to to motivate people to face their deepest fears, overcome their obstacles (their “inner stutter”) and fulfill their potential. Remember, the only way out is through.

Of all of the interview I’ve done in my life, this was the most actionable. As a lifelong stutterer my guest wastes no time with fluff or filler, he dives directly into the heart of comedy 101, overcoming your greatest fears, and what we need to do daily in order to live our potential.

(If you prefer these tips in video, click here)

You Can Be Funny Too

What I appreciated most about Joze’s approach at comedy is it’s simplicity. I didn’t feel overwhelmed or hopeless like I typically do. In fact, I felt encouraged. As if, “hell I can be funny too!”

He shared that his stand up journey began at a intro to stand up class at Second City Toronto. It was there that he learnt that when comedy it’s stripped down to it’s core, it’s all about misdirection. Joze said, “it’s the element of surprise between expectation and reality that creates humour.”

He continued, “humour is a corrective mechanism that detects the discrepancy between the expected and the actual. Laughter is our natural physiological response.”

Although I don’t personally like science, I was excited to learn that Joze believes comedy is nothing more than a scientific model we can follow. Here are his top 3 tips to help get you started immediately:

  1. Make sure what you’re saying is funny in of itself. Joze see’s this first mistake all too often at amateur comedy nights. A first timer will bring there friends to the bar but they are the only people laughing at their jokes! Why is that you ask? Because the audience knows nothing about you. If what you’re saying isn’t funny unless the audience had context into your life and personality, don’t say it. Therefore it’s best to take the position that no one knows anything about who you are and to focus on ensuring what you’re saying is inherently funny.
  2. Think of jokes as a science. When you think of jokes as a set up and a punchline, things get a lot more palatable. Using Joze’s tips from above, it’s important that after we deliver our set up, we don’t just say what’s on everyones mind. Instead, the punchline needs to be a misdirection, or different from what people expected. The secret sauce is in the misdirection.
  3. Address the elephant in the room. Joze encourages us to address what’s on everyones mind immediately. For example, if you’re extremely tall or short, fat or you know your voice sounds different (perhaps you have a stutter), address it and make a few jokes about yourself. Like most of the pleasures of life, comedy is the constant evolution of building and releasing tension. If we give a performance without releasing the tension of the clear elephant in the room, we’ll be leaving our audience behind and the laughter with it.

A Practical Philosophy for Overcoming Obstacles

I asked Joze point blank, “how the hell were you able to overcome what is a seemingly insurmountable challenge and to then rise up and become a TEDx speaker, Grand Slam Champion and International Stand Up Comedian,” to that he answered one single word, “exposure.”

“We as humans,” he said, “we’re notorious for wanting to avoid pain and discomfort.”

He related to a time in University when he asked his professors to exempt him from presentations and group work. Further, another time when he was in his youth where he even avoided his family functions by pretending to be sick.

“But that doesn’t help us move forward,” Joze shared.

To this day, after all of his accomplishments he still needs to force himself weekly to talk to 50 to 100 strangers and ask directions. The second he’s not exposing himself to the things that he fears the most, he feels a shell start to envelop him and everything he’s worked so hard towards. Instead, when we face our fears we literally change the way we frame what used to scare us.

Joze wants to encourage all of us to grab fear by the balls. His stutter is just a metaphor for any fears that’s holding us back. So what’s your stutter? Are you not wearing a bikini to the beach because you think you’re overweight? Are you not asking that cute girl on a date because you think you’ll be rejected? Are you holding onto the job or relationship you hate because you’re selling your value short?

Whatever it is, let Joze’s practical philosophy of overcoming obstacles guide you down this path of growth. As he’s world renown for saying,

“The only way out is through.” – Joze Piranian

Exposure will be your greatest asset if you let it. Sure, short term it may suck. When you’re in the mud the only thing you can do is focus on how dirty you are, how heavy it makes you feel and how much you wish you could go back to the way things were. But long term, everything you’ve ever wanted, success in your relationships, better health, and success in your business and wealth, all will come as a result of consistently stepping into and through the mud. Because the only way out my friends, is through.

Joze’s Do This Directives

  1. Get your butt to second city. If you’re serious about comedy, Joze highly recommends taking the time to invest in learning the fundamentals. Not only is it a great learning experience, but you’ll meet new friends and have a blast in the process.
  2. Join a local toastmasters club. Beyond the 50-100 weekly strangers that Joze asks for directions, he credits a lot of his public speaking success to the hours he’s spent at Toastmasters clubs in Montreal, Lebanon, Mexico City and Toronto (meet us both here!). Repetition is the mother of learning and the more consistently you can get stage time, wether it’s for standup or public speaking, the faster your trajectory to success.
  3. Grab fear by the balls. If you’re reading this blog, you’re indescribably lucky. I mean it. Not to sound cliche on you, but we have it so good. So many advantages, luxuries, and gifts have been handed to us and the least we can do is live a fraction of our potential. I only take the time and energy to write these posts because I want you and I to succeed. And we can, I believe it. But in order to do that and to take advantage of the blessing we have to take even a single breath, to type even a single word or to see and feel light every day we need to overcome fear. Together, let’s lean in, find something that grips us and remember what Joze says, “the only way out is through.”

Audio Time Stamps

  • 00:00 who is Joze Piranian
  • 2:00 Joze telling jokes!
  • 8:00 when did Joze start stand up
  • 15:00 tips to get started in comedy
  • 20:10 Joze’s philosophy for overcoming obstacles
  • 26:40 Joze’s sharing vulnerability
  • 31:21 mentors that have made an impact on his life
  • 37:30 Joze dropping wisdom BOMBS\

Till next time stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “you cannot change the destination of your life overnight but you can change your direction.”

Jonathan Andrews

Out.

Storytelling Tactics From Performance Triple Threat Nicholas Arnold

Have you thought about becoming an influencer? A world class leader? Or stage performer that moves audiences and shapes beliefs? It’s likely if you’re on this blog you have. And if we’re going to manifest those realities, becoming a compelling storyteller is non-negotiable. Stories are the glue that hold together our social interactions. And the ability to tell stories holds tremendous social currency in our fast paced and ever connected social world.

Nicholas Arnold Headshot

Nicholas Arnold tells stories for a living. He’s a graduate of Vancouver’s Film School who went on to become an entertainer and successful filmmaker. Nicholas produced and directed his first award-winning documentary at the age of 14. Followed by his feature directorial debut, “The Vicious Circle”, premiering it by the time he was 17.

From conferences, fundraisers and public talks, Nicholas has performed at The Orillia Opera House, The Elks Opera House, The Grand Theatre and dozens more bringing his nostalgic style, charm and humour to audiences from allover. As a triple threat performer, singer, comedian and public speaker, Nicholas shared invaluable tactics on storytelling, adding humour into your next presentation and what it takes to be a solo-preneur.

(If you prefer these tips in video, click here)

Be an Expert

Audiences feel lack of preparation. They know the difference between a speaker who’s regurgitating memorized lines and the ones whose delivery is unconscious. “The biggest mistake you can make as a performer,” Nicholas says, “is being underprepared. You’ve got to know your shit.”

Wether you’re performing as an actor, comedian or delivering talks as a speaker, it’s necessary to be in the moment. Nicholas believes that the cornerstone factor to delivery excellence is cultivating stage presence. Stage presence is derived through emotion. And  if we’re consciously thinking about our next lines we can’t be in the moment speaking through our emotional motivations.

His philosophy is similar to my interview with another comedic superstar Michael Orrett, as they both believe that flexibility in your performance is a sign of a presenters maturity. You want to be perceived as a professional? Know your talk so well, cultivate such a deep level of expertise, that no level of interruption, audience heckling or hiccups in your own lines can throw you off. When you know your shit, you’re transitioning from the realm of an amateur to a professional. You’re presentation gains fluidity and as a result you’ll elevate your stage presence 10 fold.

Want to see real life examples? Check out comedians like Jimmy Carr and Daniel Tosh. Anyone who can open up their act to include their audience in real time is taking on a huge risk! But when you’re a true master of your craft and you can banter and bounce jokes off the audience, the rewards are nothing short of world class performances.

Next, Nicholas was generous enough to shed light on the lessons he learnt about structuring stories as a filmmaker.

Structuring Stories

Without stories, your presentation has no life. An audience wants to know within the first 30 seconds of listening to your talk if it’s worth while. If you can’t capture their attention, imagination or have them thinking this is worth my time, than you might as well pack up and go home.

Nicholas wants us to start our presentations with compelling personal stories. “It’s critical,” Nicholas said, “to bring an element of yourself to your introductions and be genuine. Say things like, ‘when I was your age’ or ‘this reminds me of when I was.'”

Not only does it make you relatable and engage your audience, but vulnerable storytelling anchors emotions into the presenter audience relationship. Without emotion you’ll have your audience asking themselves, “why should I care about what this persons saying?”

To put it in simpler terms, one of my best friends and roommates, Iain Gabriel, is an excellent communicator and reminds us,

“Meet the audience where they’re at before you take them you want them to go.”

Once you’ve hooked the audience, anchored them with emotion and met them where they’re at, you’ll have the space to take advantage of  the following two tips about structure:

  1. KISS aka keep it simple stupid – All stories are the same. They have three parts, an intro, a body  and a conclusion. Or as Nick learnt through his years of filmmaking and acting, a three act structure. Act 1 introduces the inciting incident; Hagrid telling Harry Potter for the first time that he’s a wizard. Act 2 is the meat of the story; it’s the action or the main course so to speak. And finally Act 3 is the climax; it’s Harry, Ron and Hermione getting through the challenges and defeating Lord Voldemort. Keep it simple and don’t skip any of these three critical elements. See my favourite example of storytelling structure here.
  2. Do not rush through your key messages – Setting up structure allows you to identify where your key messages are. Some are in the incident incident, some lay within your body and others are the focal point of your climax. The key is to not power through them. Slow down, give the audience time and space to process those poignant ideas. “Public speaking,” Nicholas believes, “is like music.” There’s rhythm, pace and cadence and it’s critical that the music of our main messages aren’t being lost in the midst of the rest of our presentation. Clearly differentiate those main points by using delivery tactics like pausing, increasing or decreasing your volume and emphasizing those profound ideas with a slower pace.

Nicholas Do This Directives

  1. Be well read – Constant never ending improvement, specifically in your area of desired expertise will create a high probability of success. Now, impossible to guarantee anything, but if you explore high performers like Nicholas and those leaders we hold on a pedestal they all read. They’re always learning. Why? The probability of having that next creative idea, of delivering a better talk or maintaining an interesting conversation with a new colleague will be dramatically improved through a path of perpetual growth.
  2. Do the impossible – Nicholas is a huge advocate for using your talents to make a difference in this world. Talents are what help us bridge the gap between what is seemingly impossible to the done. In School a bully bet Nicholas a million dollars that he’d never make a movie. Now, with several movies under his belt he encourages us to do the impossible, to show others they can think bigger and ultimate move and shift the world in the process. Think bigger and start taking actions on those dreams today.
  3. Shift your mindset and develop discipline – Being an entrepreneur is not easy. No ones looking over your shoulder. No ones holding you accountable (unless you create that framework) and no one is cares about your success nearly as much as you do. That’s why it’s crucial we develop habits that serve us. Disciple, that forces new actions into habits. And finally the mindset that allows disciple to flourish and envelop our character and identity. The entrepreneur  doesn’t have a choice to be disciplined, unless they want to remain starving.

Audio Time Stamps

  • 00 who is Nicholas Arnold
  • 1:40 the power of cold outreach
  • 3:30 performance tactics
  • 6:30 actionable delivery tactics
  • 15:30 effective storytelling
  • 24 using your voice for philanthropy
  • 32 focus on discipline

Till next time stay on offence. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “you cannot change the destination of your life overnight but you can change your direction.”

Jonathan Andrews

Out.

Winning Contests and the Dark Side of Toastmasters

Imagine the tens of thousands of people in Toronto that compete every year for the chance to grace the stage at District toastmasters competition. Unfortunately, of those tens of thousands only 6 will compete and only a small handful will ever win.

Now imagine a person who consistently wins those contests year after year after year. That’s Michael Orrett. And with that experience and expertise, my ears were wide open when he shared in detail his top tactics for achieving public speaking success.

Michael Orrett Headshot

(If you prefer these tips in video format, please click this link)

Become Outcome Independent

Michael believes that one of the biggest reasons for his success in competition is that he couldn’t care less if he wins or loses. He didn’t join toastmasters to win contests, he joined to improve his speaking. When you make that mental shift to the fact that every opportunity on stage is an opportunity to take new risks and to learn your weaknesses and gaps, you’ll start to make huge leaps in your abilities.

As a long time competitor, Michael’s seen hundreds of people take the stage. Most of which have tied their identities to their success or failure in competition. That philosophy will be devastating when your name is pulled first and you crumble under the pressure of needing to start off with a bang, or destroy you mentality for the entire hour leading up to your speech if you’re pulled for last.

Instead, focus on why you started speaking in the first place and make sure that evrytime you hit the stage you’re expanding your horizons and creating awareness of where you can improve moving forward.

Michael’s Top Tips for Humour

With dozens of humour contest wins under his belt, I took Micheal’s tips on joke telling seriously. Here’s a handful of his most actionable insights:

  • Tell jokes with attitude. If you look at the worlds best comedians, even their body language expresses humour. Jim Carrey, Michael’s favourite comedian, doesn’t even need to open his mouth to be funny. He demonstrates attitude through every fiber of his being. A big vulnerability Michael see’s with new speakers is that they deliver and tell jokes with the same tonal patterns they would in regular speech. Add another dimension to your tool belt and start weaving attitude into your joke telling today.
  • Test how many ways you can tell the same joke. A two sentence joke has hundreds of different variations. Where do you pause, emphasize specific words, move your hands or body can all vary and will have an impact on the delivery. Michael suggests testing at least 6 different variations and seeing which one comes out the best.
  • Don’t step on your own jokes. Getting laughter is tough, don’t step on your own jokes by talking through that laughter when you get it. Allow the laughter to ride like a wave and only begin speaking again as it dies down. Otherwise, the joke doesn’t get the same impact and everything you say during the laughter will get lost through the distraction.

*Bonus tip* Remember that laughter multiplies. If you get a few chuckles in a small room of 10 people. The same joke will make an audience of 100 people howl!

Speech Preparation as a Beginner vs Pro

As a beginner, Michael urges us to get away from paper. He doesn’t care if you have to memorize the entire speech word for word, there’s nothing that shouts I’m not prepared like holding paper in your hand. In addition, it is an inhibitor for us to express ourselves through our body language including hands and movement.

As we progress, consider more fluidity in your presentations. Michael writes only 50% of his speeches today and then begins his rehearsal. From there, he finds that the speech begins to naturally write itself.

Next, focus on ideas and not memorization. Develop a clear idea, theme or argument and the secondary or tertiary points you’ll use to support those ideas. But from there, give yourself the space and freedom to be fluid. Meaning, if someone’s wearing a funny shirt, or said something inappropriate before the meeting started or the DJ was playing the wrong music, you have the opportunity to weave the relevant moments of the event into the presentation. This show’s the audience that you’re aware and paying attention and that you have the ability to think on your feet rather than regurgitate a message like a preprogrammed robot.

Finally, Michael and I both agree that fitness should be ever-present in our journey of communication excellence. Not only does he believe that he’s calmer, more clear headed and generally happier because a dedication to fitness, Michael uses it as a tool for preparation.

I remember in October of 2017 during the lead up to the Speaker Slam Grand Slam, Michael was posting montage videos on FB of his workouts calling me out asking if I was ready for the event. He would do push ups, stair climbs and sprints and than rehearse his lines out of breath.

“Rehearsing out of breath,” Michael says, “is a way of mimicking the emotions of nervousness you’ll feel on stage. If you can deliver your speech after a set of sprints, you’re ready to rock the house.”

I couldn’t be more grateful for Michaels friendship and guidance, as he says, he’s just keeping it a buck! (keeping it real with attitude ;)).

Do this.

  • When you’re about to take the stage, remember why you started and forget about winning.
  • See how many ways you can tell the same joke. Strive for at least 6
  • Remove notes from your presentations at all costs. Don’t allow yourself to be underprepared!

Audio timeline:

  • 00: intro and who is Michael Orrett

  • 1:40 death by violin story

  • 3:30 good vs the best of the best speakers

  • 7:00 tip for authenticity

  • 10:00 tips for humour

  • 11:25 take away for joke telling

  • 12:10 don’t step on your jokes

  • 16:00 how he prepares.

  • 18:45 preparation for beginner speakers

  • 20:40 exercise and speaking prep

  • 24:00 dark side of Toastmasters

Till next time  stay on offence. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “you cannot change the destination of your life overnight but you can change your direction.”

Jonathan Andrews

Out.