Archive for the ‘Speaking’ Category

Creativity: How do you “C”?

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Creativity comes when we can ‘C’ things differently. Notice that the difference between creative and reactive is in where you place the ‘c’. In being creative you ‘c’ first and then develop a game plan. In being reactive you ‘c’ in the midst of the situation. How do you ‘c’ (see)? Do you use foresight or hindsight? C first! 

Use PEGS to Increase Other People’s Opinions About You

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

When I was a kid I used to love it when my mom would wash the bedsheets. Mom had this theory that for bedsheets to smell fresh and nice you had to hang them in the open air. She set up a clothes line in the backyard where she would use wooden and plastic pegs to hang the sheets and have them dry. The fun, for me, came in two ways. First, my younger brother and I used to like running in between the sheets. Of course it drove my mom crazy but she also joined in the play, knowing that we were just kids having fun. Second, we enjoyed sleeping in the fresh bedsheets at the end of the day. The key to this whole process were the pegs she would use to hang the sheets. Without the pegs the bedsheets would simply fall to the ground and it would be impossible to dry them. 

This is exactly the same thing with other people’s opinions about you. My mom taught me that there are four key things that are important to observe when an older person is talking to you. I want to modify those four things to develop the idea of PEGS as key to increasing people’s opinions of you. Without using what I call PEGS, it is impossible to increase the opinion that people have of you when you are talking to them. What do I mean by this?

PEGS simply stands for Posture, Eye-contact, Gestures and Speech. Let us look at each of these:


Mom taught me that it was important to sit up when being talked to or when talkign to someone else. She added that if standing, it was important to stand with shoulders back and head upright. When you sit up or when you stand upright you convey to other people that you respect them. When people see that you have a high regard for them, they will naturally have a higher opinion of you. Your posture sends a louder message to people around you than the words that you use.


Mom taught me that it’s hard for people to tell whether you understand and are following them if you did not give good eye-contact. She also stressed the importance of looking at the people I was talking to so that they could see that I was being sincere and honest with them. Making eye-contact enables other people to know that you truly appreciate them. The eyes are the window to the soul. Eye-contact enables you to connect with those whom you are speaking to or anyone who is speaking with you.


Mom taught me that any gestures I use during conversation should be purposeful and relevant because they will determine how other people view me. She taught me that if my gestures reflect hostility and contempt, people will not have a high opinion of me. Over the years, I have come to learn that there are three key gestures that people focus on: hand gestures, body gestures and facial gestures. Any gestures used should deliberately add value to the conversation.


Mom taught me that what you say and how you say it are both very important in determining people’s opinion of you. She urged me to always speak slowly and clearly, carefully choosing my words and making sure that I’m using appropriate language. Along with language, the tone of voice that one uses should communicate respect for the other party. This is particularly important when speaking in one-on-one settings or small group settings. Careful choice of speech will increase people’s opinion of you. 

Train your butterflies to fly in formation

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

Public speaking is tough. Almost everyone experiences anxiety when asked to speak in public. Public speaking is even more challenging for speakers who have to do it in foreign languages. As a Kenyan developing a speaking profession in the US, I know full well the challenges that immigrants face in speaking in a second or even third language. I grew up speaking Luhya and Swahili and only started working on my English at age 14. My passion for speaking in public started when I was a student at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. I had spoken to many students in my country before I came to the US. My speaking was chiefly in my second language, Swahili. After coming to the US, I have had to work hard at speaking in my third language, English. One of the things that I have experienced as a speaker in both cultures is the anxiety that comes with the task of speaking. All communicators face anxiety, even the most seasoned communicators. This phenomenon has been referred to as “having butterflies in the stomach”.

I have come to love these “butterflies in the stomach”. I never know when they will start flying but I’m always thrilled about them. They are scary yet they symbolize opportunity – the opportunity to go beyond my personal limitations and do something worth remembering. This becomes particularly important when speaking in public. I want to be so used up after each speech so that they will literally carry me off the stage. I think a speaker is a performer. Like an athlete, he or she needs to be spent at the end of the performance. But that’s a completely different topic. Let me give you five strategies for training your butterflies to fly in formation.

1. Select exciting topics

This is very basic and fundamental to speaking. Your topic has to appeal to the audience’s interests and senses. A good speaker can make any topic exciting but a boring topic cannot make a good speaker exciting. Careful choice of speaking topic is therefore essential to moving your audience.

2. Build your knowledge

Once you have chosen your topic, you need to study widely and deeply. A knowledgeable speaker who has done his or her research well is usually more interesting than one who hasn’t. Building your knowledge also includes learning about your audience. What are their interests? Where are they in life? What are they trying to accomplish?

3. Develop some visual aids

Visual aids help in enabling you to come across as a professional and utilizing all the senses of your audience. You can use items like charts, graphs. powerpoint presentations, overhead projectors, models and many other different objects. The use of visual aids also encourages you to gesture and gesturing enables you to maintain composure.

4. Master your message

You master your message by practicing it. Practice makes permanent. The more you practice, the more permanent the skill of speaking will become to you. As you master your message you become comfortable with speaking. Your expectations arise and your butterflies begin to fly at your command.

5. Love your audience

Expect your audience to like you. Go in with a belief that they will be attentive and will respond positively to you. Smile. Be confident. Visualize yourself being successful. Be at ease with talking to your audience. Audiences are not your enemies, they are friends. Enjoy getting to know your audience as you speak to them.

Migrating from Outdated to Innovative

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

The other day I went to visit a speaking club in the heart of my city. It’s a nice part of town and I knew I was in for a great time since this is a marvelous organization. As I walked towards the building from my car, I whistled happily in anticipation of an excellent meeting. However, as I walked towards the stairway, I was taken aback to find that this nice building had a very old model of elevator. It seemed to me that this was part of a design but the fact that the new building was coupled with an old kind of elevator was startling.

It is from this experience that I’m writing about migrating from the old to the new. Since time immemorial, mankind’s progress has always been on the basis of putting behind that which is outdated in favor of new methods of doing things. There are times when the old and the new will interact. That’s understandable. But there must be a deliberate effort to embrace the new and move forward. Let me encourage you to embrace the new today. Unless you are in the antiques business it makes little sense to stick with the old.

Speaking to Change Lives

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

Speaking is a rewarding experience. Nothing is more satisfying for a speaker than giving a talk and then being told afterwards by a listener that his or her words had changed their life. The highest purpose of a speaker is to have such an impact in a listener’s mind. While speaking to entertain and speaking to inform are worthwhile careers for some, speaking to change lives is the ultimate mark of a difference maker. Whether it’s out in the community or inside an organization, difference makers change lives by empowering people through their speech.

Yesterday I was rewarded by an email from a friend who thanked me for speaking to her a few years ago. She went on to detail how her life had been changed and some of the commitments she had made that had transformed many aspects of her life. This was such a beautiful email that I printed it out and stored it carefully in my collection of mementos. It is a rewarding experience to know that even though we may not consciously know the difference we are making when we speak to people, the universe is allowing changes to take place that are making this a better world. What a joy! Speak to change lives today!


Every Word Counts

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

This morning I was challenged to realize that every word that comes out of my mouth has impact. There are no random words. Even the small chatter we tend to engage in every now and then is important. Words have the power to shape destiny. Every time we speak we are making a presentation. Our speaking should therefore be empowering to those around us.

A few days ago I decided to visit a local job fair for networking purposes. I met and chatted with a lady who, in the process of our chatting, shared with me information that has enabled me to connect with a great organization. We should never take for granted the chatter that takes place at the water cooler. Every talk is an opportunity to either share information or empower others with knowledge that can greatly improve their lives. 

Inspiration: Stories that Iginite Motivation

Friday, March 30th, 2007

As I was reflecting on what I would post about this morning, I was inspired by the sense of inspiration that people found in my personal story. I think we all need daily doses of inspiration. The key to staying motivated towards achieving our goals is the inspiration that comes from the stories we encounter on a daily basis. Learning to listen to the good, powerful and life-changing stories that life offers us enables us to soar above mediocrity and live life at a higher level. Our purpose is clarified and our power is harnessed when we share in positive, life-changing stories.

I subscribe to a newsletter that comes to my inbox weekly from the Children’s Defense Fund. In this week’s newsletter, stories were highlighted of teenagers that are contributing to their communities. This was a very inspiring publication. We are used to listening to the stories of teenagers involved in crime and negative things in the news media. I think it is essential to turn off the negative news and start finding the positive things that are being done in society and highlighting them. I was greatly inspired to continue working in my community when I read these stories.

We get inspired so that we can aspire to higher ideals. Our aspirations provide us with the motivation that we need to stay focused. Being inspired therefore, is foundational to our personal growth and development. I look at and define myself as an inspirational teacher. My stories inspire people so that they can find the motivation to do what they need to do. Motivation may provide people with information that generates good feelings within them but inspiration sparks a fire within them that they can act upon. 

The Most Important Ingredient of Speech

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

The last couple of years have seen a mushrooming in the quest for professional speaking skills. Organizations like Toastmasters and speaking courses like Dale Carnegie’s have continued to grow immensely as more and more people realize the need to enhance their speaking skills. This is great. People are realizing that it is not just enough to have language, you need to develop mastery in it’s use. Now, the development of mastery in many speaking organizations usually focuses on the technical aspects of speaking – how to stand, use of gestures, layout of notes, etc. But then, there’s another aspect of speaking that I think is the most imporatnt ingredient. This is passion.

All the foremost speakers that we fondly remember have always demonstrated a passion that came from deep within their convictions. Martin Luther King Jr. (The greatest speaker of the 20th Century), Ronald Reagan (The Great Communicator), Zig Ziglar (The Greatest Motivational Speaker) and Les Brown (The World’s Leading Motivational Speaker) are good examples of very passionate speakers. If you will speak to change lives you must have passion. Passion elevates words from notes in ink to life-changing insights in the mind. Passion comes from conviction. You must believe in what you are saying deeply. Cultivate a deep passion and your speaking will be greatly rewarded.

Speaking to Change Lives Positively

Monday, March 12th, 2007

This morning I’ve been working on a speech that I’ll be delivering to a group of ladies with developmental disabilities. I was approached by a lady who has a daughter receiving services from an organization for the developmentally challenged right here in Cincinnati. My speech is part inspirational, part motivational and entirely geared towards empowering them with insights that will elevate their lives. As I worked on this, the thought came to my mind, what exactly is the purpose of public speaking? I see no other end expect the desire to change lives positively.

More than ever before, we live in a day when people are easily discouraged by the pressures of modern life. While society has progressed in many ways, there has still been an increase in the demands that life puts on us. In almost every aspect of life there is a need for radical change. It’s almost as if we need a revolution to see things go ‘back to normal’. Poverty, suicides, abortions, crime, drug use, discrimination and many other ills are on the rise. If society will advance beyond these issues, we need more speakers who will inspire people to change their lives. We need more empowerment than entertainment. Let every speech, from now henceforth, be about changing lives.