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Do you ever have one of those experiences where you look at where you are today, and wonder how you got there?

I *mean* to write down my goals, journal regularly, practice gratitude, do the “take a look back and see how far you’ve come” exercise, and engage in all the actions that us enlightened entrepreneurs are SUPPOSED to do. Really, I do. Yet somehow, these wonderful practices often end up a lot further down in the to-do list than I intend. But every now and then, my brain DOES manage to kick into a reflective mode, where I look back at where I was a year, 5 years or 10 years ago, and really take stock of what’s happened in all that time. The accomplishments, the failures, and everything in between.

So what do you do when you realize that something MONUMENTAL happened? When an accomplishment that you had aspired to years earlier, that you had *almost* forgotten that you ever wanted, actually happens?? Or better yet, when you planted a seed early in your career — via stating an aspiration, goal or you just wish upon a star — and then 10 years later, realized in that “OMG!!” moment, that it was actually happening??

So it goes with this keynote at the Toastmasters District 61 conference.

Toastmasters 2018 District Conference Keynote with Suzannah Baum - YouTube

My public speaking career began with Toastmasters. Specifically, the McGill Toastmasters club. I joined in 2002, at a time when I was struggling in my career, working in the marketing department at various IT companies, terrified of public speaking, and searching for both personal and professional development that could give me a little direction in my life and help me advance in my career.

I couldn’t have found a better place. So much encouragement, so much support, so much guidance and generosity. So much so, that in 2005, I started my business as a presentations and public speaking trainer, coach and speaker. It was a slow start, where I had to stay at my full-time job for a few more years, but the seeds started to get planted.

I remember at one of the first conferences that I attended in 2003, I watched the conference keynoters and thought, “What does it take to get on THAT stage??” In 2009, I was given the opportunity to give a breakout session at one of their Division conferences. It was a huge thrill. And yet I continued to watch the conference keynoters and think, “What does it take to get on THAT stage??”

My Toastmasters journey officially ended in 2010, but I always kept in touch with the McGill Toastmasters club, (who actually invited me back for a fun interview earlier this year — the video is posted below). But since I wasn’t regularly going to meetings anymore, and my attention turned elsewhere, life went on, and Toastmasters went onto the back burner of my life.

And then, sometime last year, I was asked to speak at their District conference.

And I got on THAT stage.

And I had to admit that sometimes, the seeds that you plant, and the ideas that you put out to the universe, can actually happen. Even if they happen many, many years later.

(To be honest, there’s still a tiny bit of “how on earth did this happen?” to the whole thing. But I digress…)

Now I don’t want this post to sound like it’s I’m being all braggy, or doing a “yay me!” thing (although if there was a tiny bit of “yay” sprinkled throughout this post, then…well, forgive me). But in the midst of always posting public speaking tips, ideas, videos, strategies, guest posts, and guidelines, I just wanted to share something a little more personal, a little more meaningful. And a little more like something that, short of sounding all “yay me!” again, I wanted to share with you as a HUGE, beautiful, and unbelievably appreciated moment in my life.

There are so many people who offered support, kind words, and kicks-in-the-butt along the years, and that’s a large part of what the keynote was about. Ultimately, the main message was to look around at those who have helped you get to where you are. Notice them. Appreciate them. And know that YOU can help others get to where THEY want to go. As you help others grow and be amazing, YOU will grow and become amazing. It’s this full-circle process, where you will grow and succeed by accepting the help that others give…and by giving the help as well.

So it’s with immense gratitude that I thank all those people, over all those years, who played a part in making this incredibly meaningful moment in time into a reality. It will not be forgotten.

***************

(Pssst….here the video of my interview at the McGill Toastmasters Club, where we talked about the [sometimes very messy] journey from terrified Toastmaster to full time professional speaker/trainer/coach, and everything in-between):

Becoming a public speaker with Suzannah Baum - YouTube

The post The “HOW ON EARTH DID THIS HAPPEN?!” moment… How do you measure (and appreciate) it? appeared first on Suzannah Baum.

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I’m very excited to share that my blog was awarded the 2019 Top Business Communication Blog Award by Businessfirstimpression.com! My blog was one of three that were selected for this honor, in the field of presentations and communications.

According to their algorithms, my blog ranked within the top 5% for specialized, quality and consistent content in the presentations industry in 2018. On top of THAT coolness, this blog placed alongside two women who are also established and very well-respected leaders in this industry – Nancy Duarte and Lucille Ossai.  I’ve had Nancy Duarte’s two books, Resonate and Slideology, on my bookshelf for years – so I was already one of her raving fans. And I’ve gotten to know Lucille for a few years already through social media communications, and can certainly vouch for her knowledge and deep insights in the field of engaging presentations.

And if all THAT wasn’t enough….I got this nifty badge too!

Check out the full article here.

Thank you, BusinessFirstImpression.com! 

The post Proud Recipient of the 2019 Top Business Communication Blog Award! appeared first on Suzannah Baum.

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12 potential Irish Queens, public speaking contests, and lots and lots of green! 

I recently had the amazing opportunity to act as one [of seven] independent judges at the 64th annual Queen Selection, organized by the United Irish Societies, for Montreal’s 196th St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Twelve young women of Irish descent, aged 18-25, competed in a three-round public speaking contest for the chance to be crowned as Queen.

And while getting the chance to judge these incredibly impressive women as the spoke so eloquently was a fun and interesting experience, it was by no means easy.

Not that it was easy for them either, mind you. In a rapid-fire format, the participants had to take part in three 2-minute speeches, in front of an audience of several hundred people. In the first speech, they had to introduce themselves and their ancestry, briefly sharing who they are, what they do, their Irish roots, and what causes are important to them. In the second speech, they had to answer a question with a unique Irish theme that they were able to choose and were given two weeks to prepare  (everything from notable moments in history, to well-known Irish poets, to Bono’s charitable involvements, and much more). For the third speech, they were given an impromptu question that they had to respond to on the spot.

As I watched all these young women in action, I reflected on how different MY life was when I was that age (translation: I was a more self-centered, more concerned with who I would be going out with over the weekend than what these worldly, passionate and philanthropic individuals seem to be concerned with). At the same time, I was so taken at the courage required to enter the competition and get up on that stage (you can probably even see the awe in my face, captured at around 0.17-0.19 in the video below (the St. Patrick’s Day Queen and Her Court, from Global News).

There’s no doubt that so many women are qualified to do this, but not all of them would be willing to get up on stage in front of so many people not only to engage in public speaking….but to get judged on it as well.

Yes, some of the women may have appeared more nervous than the others. Some of them may have answered questions more eloquently than others. But make no mistake, every single person who took the stage was a shining example of dedication, intelligence, and inspiration.

Walking back to the judges room — we weren’t allowed to speak to ANYONE during our breaks, to keep it completely fair and unbiased (I even managed to find a green dress for the occasion!)

As a presentation and public speaking expert, my job is to teach others how to craft more compelling, engaging, focused presentations, and deliver them with confidence and ease. For this reason, I always find it pretty exciting when young, dynamic people have mastered some of the Big Important lessons of public speaking, so early in their lives. And that’s exactly what happened that night.

So with that, I offer the 3 key takeaways that not only I, but the St. Patrick’s Queen, the Royal Court, and ALL the participants at the 64th annual Queen Selection showcased that evening, that serves as an excellent reminder for anyone preparing to give a presentation:

  1. Confident? Nervous? Who cares?? Some of the women appeared confident, others appeared nervous, and still others were somewhere in the middle. But whatever they may have been feeling was completely irrelevant. The important thing is that they got up on stage, and they put everything they had into this contest. Even if they were incredibly nervous, that didn’t stop them. To feel the fear and do it anyway….that’s where the magic lies.
  1. Preparation is key – no exceptions. Preparation is the best way to manage nervousness, and of course, it’s the best way to give the most prepared, eloquent responses. To say that this group was prepared is a real understatement. I suspect that while most speeches were memorized (except for the last, impromptu one), none of them were presented in the ‘robotic’ way that so many people fear when they script their speeches. With a 2-minute speech, memorizing isn’t such a bad choice.
  1. What do to about the Dreaded FREEZE! It happened once or twice that one of the contestants had a momentary blank – or at least I assumed so, based on a longer pause and a searching look. So what did they do? As in point #1 above, forgetting what you want to say is actually irrelevant. What the audience wants to see is the speaker reconnect with themselves and their content, that they don’t panic, that they don’t let their nervousness show, and that they pick themselves up where they left off and finish the question. Even if there’s a few seconds of pause, the fact that they didn’t panic or apologize, and that they eventually picked it back up, is all that counted.

The Queen and the 4 princesses were fine examples of poise, eloquence and personality. The other 7 contestants who were not chosen were also fine examples of poise, eloquence and personality. Given the hundreds of people in attendance – including so many children – I suspect that everyone that  took the stage that evening will have a hand in inspiring future generations, not simply to compete for the prestigious honour of being selected as Queen or Royal Court, but to live a life of purpose, generosity and accomplishment, as each one of the 12 speakers displayed.

(A big congratulations goes out to Victoria Kelly, selected as this year’s queen, and her royal court, princesses Lianne Short, Darragh Kilkenny-Mondoux, Lauren MacDonald and Aveen Mahon. And thank you to the United Irish Societies for choosing me to be a judge at this important, memorable event).

The Montreal St. Patrick’s Day parade will be taking place on Sunday, March 17, 2019.

The post Public Speaking Lessons from the [St. Patrick’s Day] Queen and Her Royal Court    appeared first on Suzannah Baum.

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Here’s my short answer to the question: “If we were to work together, where do we start?”

(Hint: It’s all about determining what the audience needs to hear, putting it into a defined structure, the magic of my 3-step process, and THEN…(watch the video to learn more — because the last point is about YOU (yes…YOU!))

When you work with me, here’s how we do it! [Video #4 in the Meet Suzannah Video Series] - YouTube

I happily invite you to contact me if you’d like information on booking:
– A Presentation & Public Speaking Training Program for your team
– Executive Speech Coaching to help you prepare for your next presentation
– A speaker for your next conference or off-site meeting.

Credit to technical guru David Papp for his suggestions, guidance, pokes and talents in making this video series a reality.

The post “Suzannah, if we were to work together, where do we start?” [Video #4 in the 4-part Meet Suzannah Video Series] appeared first on Suzannah Baum.

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Here’s my short answer to the question: “What is the most common challenge that you’ve seen with presentations?

(Hint: This is all about how a simple shift in the presenter’s mindset — and subsequent focus of their message — can have HUGE implications on how the audience reacts to their speech).

One of the most common – and avoidable -- problems with presentations [Video #3] - YouTube

I happily invite you to contact me if you’d like information on booking:
– A Presentation & Public Speaking Training Program for your team
– Executive Speech Coaching to help you prepare for your next presentation
– A speaker for your next conference or off-site meeting.

Credit to technical guru David Papp for his suggestions, guidance, pokes and talents in making these videos a reality.

The post “Hey Suzannah…what’s one of the most common presentation problems that you see?” [Video #3 in the 4-part Meet Suzannah Video Series] appeared first on Suzannah Baum.

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In the 2nd video of my 4-part Meet Suzannah Video Series, I briefly answer the question: “Who do you work with, and what are they trying to achieve?”

(Hint: They’re people who come from all points of the public speaking spectrum….from nervous to super-confident, from entrepreneurs to executives, from new to seasoned speakers. They all have different speaking goals, but what they DO have in common is the desire to be more engaging presenters, delivering a compelling, focused, valuable message to an audience).

The 3 Most Common Types of People That I Work With (and their Speaking Goals) [Video #2] - YouTube

I happily invite you to contact me if you’d like information on booking:
– A Presentation & Public Speaking Training Program for your team
– Executive Speech Coaching to help you prepare for your next presentation
– A speaker for your next conference or off-site meeting.

Credit to technical guru David Papp for his suggestions, guidance, pokes and talents in making these videos a reality.

The post “Hey Suzannah…who do you work with, and what are they trying to achieve?” [Video #2 in the 4-part Meet Suzannah Video Series] appeared first on Suzannah Baum.

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When you get asked “what do you do?” it can be very easy to share an elevator pitch, or point people to your website, videos or social media channels. And I’ve been guilty of doing exactly that. So I’ve decided to try something new, and have created the Meet Suzannah Video Series, a series of 4 less-than-90-seconds videos that answer some of the most common questions that I receive fairly often.

Starting with….

“Hey Suzannah….what do you do, and how do you do it?“

(Hint: I work with amazing people and organizations who want to bring more meaning, relevance and engagement to their presentations. But watch the video anyway!)

"Suzannah, what do you do, and how do you do it? “ [Video #1 in the Meet Suzannah Video Series] - YouTube

I happily invite you to contact me if you’d like information on booking:
– A Presentation & Public Speaking Training Program for your team
– Executive Speech Coaching to help you prepare for your next presentation
– A speaker for your next conference or off-site meeting.

Credit to technical guru David Papp for his suggestions, guidance, pokes and talents in making this video series a reality.

The post “Hey Suzannah….what do you do, and how do you do it?“ [Video #1 in the 4-part Meet Suzannah Video Series] appeared first on Suzannah Baum.

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I had a MAGNIFICENT time being interviewed by the talented Alain Guillot at the McGill Toastmasters Club in a post-meeting interview session.

In this interview, Alain and I share a fast-paced, personal, and very honest (sometimes too honest, maybe?) conversation where we discuss the journey from terrified Toastmaster to full time professional speaker/trainer/coach, leaving a full-time job to dedicate myself to what started as an ‘inconsistent’ business (while still managing to eat full-time), how surrounding yourself with like-minded people will help you grow your business, the myth of the overnight success, how to balance between panic and appreciation when business gets slow, and the looming spectre of the dreaded Imposter Syndrome. Plus there were some added laughs and “secret sauce” discussions along the way.  Interesting questions from the audience at the end rounded out this amazing evening.

Becoming a public speaker with Suzannah Baum - YouTube

It’s always very meaningful for me to go back to this particular Toastmasters club, since this is where my public speaking career began. I joined in 2002 at the recommendation of one of my cousins, who happened to be a club president in California at the time. I was struggling in my career, terrified of public speaking, and searching for both personal and professional development that could give me a little direction in my life.

I couldn’t have found a better place.

The people, the chemistry of the group, combined with the Toastmasters structure, was exactly what I was looking for at the time. I spent 8 years as a member of that club, and I can honestly say that I would NEVER have been able to develop the skills that I needed to pursue and work in this industry without the foundation provided by the supportive, encouraging, amazing people at the McGill Toastmasters club.

Many thanks to Alain Guillot, Angela He, Cheryl Williams, George Tabah, Monica deLiz, Lila Malde, and every other person in the room who made this such a wonderful, welcoming, and fun experience.

Get more information about the McGill Toastmasters Club or  Toastmasters International. 

The post On Becoming a Professional Public Speaker (my interview at the McGill Toastmasters Club) appeared first on Suzannah Baum.

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A few weeks ago, I attended a full-day marketing and branding conference to listen to six individuals, all professional speakers, authors, and experts in their field. They were scheduled to take the stage for 45-60 minutes at a time, to an audience of approximately 1,000 people. Some of these speakers were more well-known than others, but all had a specific expertise, and I was eager to listen to them all and hear what they had to share.

What did I come out with?

  1. The speakers who can make the audience laugh the most will be rated the highest
  2. You don’t always need slides to get your point across concisely and powerfully
  3. Even the best professional speakers can miss the mark and completely alienate the audience

Let’s focus on point #3.

All the speakers had their fan base. There were two speakers who were big draws – one of them was an author of several books, very active on social media, and a true expert in his field. I know many people who RT him on Twitter regularly, who read his books, and follow his advice. The other had fewer books, a little newer to the speaking field, but is a well known local personality.  And while I can accept that even the best speakers can have an “off” day (as I was told by someone who had seen these people speak before, who assured me that they are generally much better than their performance on that day), here’s what these speakers did that really annoyed the audience:

  1. Speaking from the floor, not the stage. One of the speakers chose to pace around the conference room floor, rather than present from the stage. Given that the room had to accommodate approximately 1,000 people it was a fairly large room. So in walking around the floor rather than staying in a location where everyone could see him, his audience was forced to twist and turn in our chairs to try to follow him. That is, until we got tired of trying to find him in the huge room, and stopped trying to follow him – and stopped listening to him as well.
  2. “Shock” tactics. Many speakers/bloggers/ad agencies/whoever now subscribe to the notion that you have to be controversial to be noticed. Be direct. Be tough. Be rude. THAT’S what will get your audience to pay attention.  I get it. But I don’t like it. I don’t appreciate someone who doesn’t know me telling me that I’m not working hard enough. Or writing enough books. Or that if I don’t follow his exact ‘recipe for success,’ my business will burn out like the dying embers of a summer bonfire. I didn’t like it…and neither did anyone sitting around me, who grumbled loudly enough for me to confirm this.
  3. ‘Stream of consciousness’ monologue – that went on waaaaaay too long.  This speaker started off well enough, then lost steam about ¾ of the way through…and then wouldn’t get off the stage! At one point, he started walking back and forth across the stage, not even looking at the audience, and it almost seemed like he was practicing his speech the way you would do it at home, in front of a mirror. The content lost focus, he started focusing on telling his stories and giving advice than following audience cues – which, if he was paying attention, was yelling out “Please wrap it up!” And worst of all, he spoke for longer than an hour… beyond his allotted time, especially given that he wasn’t the final speaker of the day.

In my years teaching public speaking and coaching speakers on how to get their point across concisely and powerfully, I am always surprised when professional speakers make these types of mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, this post isn’t meant to be overly critical of these speakers. Maybe they were both trying out new material, and it didn’t work. Or maybe this exact speech works fantastically well with a different kind of audience. The point is, it didn’t work with this one, and that’s a risk that we all take whenever we get on a stage in front of an audience. We can’t always predict the future. And I’m 100% confident that these two speakers will survive. They’ll go on to speak to sold-out conferences, write and sell more books, spread their messages, and make good money.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from their mistakes. So the next time you take the stage, keep these in mind:

  1. Present from the stage. Don’t present from the floor because it gets you “closer” to the audience. It doesn’t work. And frankly, it’s annoying.
  2. Who’s in your audience? Learn as much as you can about your audience before you take the stage – including what they’re expecting from you and your speech – so you know what kind of approach to take with them.
  3. Don’t try out new material when you’re on stage. Enough said.
  4. END ON TIME! Show respect for your audience – and the other speakers who come after you – by staying on the schedule, even if it means you have to cut a few minutes of your content.

The post Even Professional Speakers Don’t Always Get it Right appeared first on Suzannah Baum.

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When you’re asked about public speaking, is your knee-jerk reaction to say ““I hate public speaking. I am just NO good at that”? Have you already decided what you’re good — or not good — at, and convince yourself that it’s the truth?

What do you do when you have a skill, talent or expertise that should be shared, but you keep telling yourself that you can’t communicate it properly because you’re just no good at public speaking?

If this sounds like the conversation that you have with YOURSELF every so often, then check out this quick video with some tips and ideas of how you can change that mindset, change your story, and set yourself up for speaking success.

(transcript of full video below)

Are You [Unknowingly] Sabotaging your Chances for Speaking Success? - YouTube

Questions? Comments? Email me and let’s talk about it!

Transcript:

Do you sabotage the potential for your success? Do you ever tell yourself that you’re not good at things that you may never have tried? Last week I was having a conversation with a fairly new colleague of mine, and she asked me, “What is it that you do, Suzannah?” And when I told her that I teach people how to be better at public speaking, how to give better presentations, and be more compelling in front of an audience, she said to me, “Oh, public speaking? I hate that stuff. I am NO good at that.”  

And I thought to myself, “Isn’t that funny, because this person is such a vibrant, enthusiastic, friendly person. Is it possible that she’s TELLING herself that she’s no good at public speaking, and she’s TELLING herself that she could never do it, and she’s TELLING herself that she hates it, when in fact, all she needed to do was try it. And in fact, all she needed to do is to put in place a few essential steps to make it easier.

The problem is, if you’re going to keep telling yourself the story of what you’re good at and what you’re not good at, then you may never want to develop that skill. The real problem is becoming when you have a skill that can be shared with an audience, you have a talent or expertise that you’re willingly holding back, just because you keep telling yourself that you’re simply not good at it.  

This is a story that we may keep repeating to in our heads, and it’s a story that we can change. We don’t have to continue telling that story. When it comes to public speaking, sometimes we just need to put a few elements in place, go through a specific structure, or understand what key elements need to be in your presentation in order to be a real success. At the same time, if we stop focusing on ourselves, and how WE feel in front of an audience, and instead focus on the audience; what is it that THEY need to hear, and what value can we bring to THEM. That can be enough to completely shift your mindset, and shift your story.

So I ask you, please be mindful of the story that you tell yourself, and be mindful if you’re telling yourself that you’re not good at something that the greater world may need to hear from you, and that the greater world can learn from you. It’s a shame to keep it within yourself. So change your story, and tell yourself that you CAN!

My name is Suzannah Baum. If you’d like to get in touch to talk about how we can change your story, and how we could work together to create audience-centric presentations that will allow you  to step out and shine your unique expertise and your unique value and share that with the world, then let’s get in touch.

The post What Story Are You Telling Yourself? (and is it Ruining Your Chances for Speaking Success?) appeared first on Suzannah Baum.

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