Mastertalk founder Brenden Kumarasamy explains how you can improve your presentations, and why becoming a great communicator will help more than your public speaking skills.
Brenden Kumarasamy of Mastertalk
Brenden is the founder of Mastertalk, a YouTube channel he started to help the world master the art of public speaking and communication. He coaches purpose driven entrepreneurs on how to master their message and share their ideas with the world.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- [01:08] Brenden introduces Mastertalk.
- [02:19] How Brenden got into public speaking and presenting.
- [05:12] The fear of public speaking and how you can overcome it.
- [05:42] Why confidence is key to effective public speaking.
- [06:07] Using a belief system to solidify your speaking style.
- [08:18] How to practice your presentation skills.
- [10:25] How to prepare for giving presentations in the workplace.
- [11:10] How practicing improvisation can help eliminate your fear of public speaking.
- [13:48] Learning techniques to help your workplace presentations.
- [16:56] How thinking of a presentation as a jigsaw puzzle can help you plan the content.
- [20:02] How repetition is key to improving your presentations.
- [21:38] The importance of time-stamped feedback for presentation analysis.
- [24:35] How presenting multiple times helps you master your content.
- [26:41] How to figure out the key idea that you want the audience to take away.
- [28:12] Defending your key idea through tools that are comfortable to you.
- [30:25] Understanding why you want to be a better communicator.
- [30:18] How to stop using “filler” words while presenting.
- [33:36] How to maintain engagement when presenting virtually rather than in-person.
Resources mentioned in this episode
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To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.
Episode 72: How to give a knock-out presentation - with Brenden Kumarasamy of Mastertalk
Jeremy Cline 0:00
You've been asked to do a presentation at work, or maybe you've got a presentation coming up which is part of an interview process. It wouldn't surprise me if the idea of giving a presentation is one which fills you, frankly, with dread. How can you make sure that you perform well and produce an interesting and informative and entertaining presentation? That's what we talk about in this episode. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:36
Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the show where we're all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. Now, chances are, at some point in your professional career, you're going to be asked to give a presentation. It might be part of an interview process, it might be to colleagues, it might be on a platform to third parties. It's not something which comes naturally to a lot of people, so I'm delighted to be joined today by Brenden Kumarasamy, founder of MasterTalk, to give us some tips. Brenden, welcome to the podcast.
Brenden Kumarasamy 1:03
Thanks, Jeremy. It's good to be on.
Jeremy Cline 1:04
Can you start by telling us a bit more about MasterTalk? So, what is it you do and who do you do it for?
Brenden Kumarasamy 1:08
Yeah, absolutely. MasterTalk is a YouTube channel I started to help the world master the art of communication and public speaking. So, basically what happened was when I was in university, I used to do these things called case competitions. So, think of it like professional sports, but for nerds. So, other guys my age were playing footy, rugby or cricket. I used the same competitive spirit and I applied it to presentations. So, for three years, not only did I present hundreds of times and coach dozens of university students on public speaking, but by the time I graduated, and I got a job in the corporate world, I just asked myself a simple question, just, how do I make a difference in the world? How do I contribute more to society? And that's when I had the idea for the YouTube channel, because I realised that a lot of the communication information out there was horrendous. So, I decided to make videos in my basement and here we are today.
Jeremy Cline 1:52
Okay, so is this still a side project to your corporate job?
Brenden Kumarasamy 1:56
Yep. Correct. I'll be going full-time next year though, but for now it's side.
Jeremy Cline 1:59
Awesome, so what's full-time going to look like? Is it just going to be the YouTube channel or are you going to do personal coaching, consulting, that kind of stuff?
Brenden Kumarasamy 2:06
Yeah, it's a mix of different things. I would say it's a mix of YouTube, coaching, online courses and speaking engagements.
Jeremy Cline 2:12
And how did you get into this? How did you end up doing this whilst all your friends were playing sports and that kind of thing?
Brenden Kumarasamy 2:19
It's a bit odd to explain, but I'll give it my best shot, Jeremy. So basically, what happens in business school is, much like how if you're a computer science student, you would do hackathons, or if you're jock in a university, you'd be focused on sports and doing that kind of stuff, in business school, the top jobs generally go to the people who do these competitions. And the reason is because a lot of companies come and sponsor these events. They're the ones who give the case, they're the ones who explain the business problem, and then we as mid-20, early 20-year-olds must then solve the problem for somebody who's been working at the company for 20 plus years. So for example, a couple years ago the case sponsor for an international competition in Montreal, where I'm from, was Walmart. But the person who was presenting Walmart wasn't store manager, it was the senior vice president of Walmart Canada, and the average age of the participants in this competition are 21 or 22. So, we're presenting to the guy who literally is under the president, on how to speak and how to solve his own problems, which is super frightening, but also very rewarding for both job opportunities and whatnot. So I just said, 'Oh, why don't I just do these things? I could get a job and everything.' But, Jeremy, those competitions quickly turned into an obsession. For the next three years, especially when I didn't need to do them anymore, I was just obsessed. I just kept doing them over and over again. Then 50 competitions later, here we are today!
Jeremy Cline 3:43
Fantastic, wow! I've never even come across these competitions, but I guess that's going to be amazing experience, because as we'll come on to, presentation skills can be such a valuable part of, particularly, the corporate world.
Brenden Kumarasamy 3:56
Absolutely. There's schools in the UK that do these competitions as well, and across Europe. A couple examples I can give is Spain, Navarra, Germany – a couple of those different countries. But since these people are the best speakers in their school and the best presenters, a lot of these people tend to get multiple job offers after graduation – they just kind of pick the job that they want. And they all go on to become vice presidents in their early 30s.
Jeremy Cline 4:23
I wanted to talk about presentation skills, and as I mentioned at the top, really in two contexts. One is part of an interview process, where it's not uncommon in interviews to be asking for a presentation to someone on a particular subject. And then also as part of the job itself, whether it's an internal presentation to peers, or whether it's a sales pitch or going onstage at an industry conference or something like that. The thing I wanted to touch on first was building up confidence in this sort of thing, because clearly confidence and skill are connected to one another, but I have seen clearly confident presenters who don't come across as being particularly skilled presenters. So, I'm wondering if you could talk a bit about, how do you start building up the confidence, because it's going to be something which scares a heck of a lot of people?
Brenden Kumarasamy 5:13
Absolutely. So a couple of things I'd like to mention here. First thing is, where does the fear of public speaking come from and how do we eliminate it? The short answer is, the fear needs to lose to the message. The fear is always going to be there. It's never going to disappear, it's never going to run away. But the way that I like to think about it is, if fear and message were in a boxing match together, fear is always going to be in the ring. But you need to make sure that the message gets the knockout punch, that the message wins over the fear, right? That's the first part. The second part is, where does confidence stem from? Confidence stems from two key areas. The first one is obvious, it's preparation. If you just prepare more, it'll be better. It's like when you started this podcast. If you're on episode zero, you're like, what's a podcast? How am I supposed to interview people? When you're at episode 100, you're like, I know how to navigate this conversation in a way that adds value to my audience. Why? Because the format of my show will always stay the same, pretty much. But the other side of the equation is something not many people talk about. It's not breathing, or drinking a glass of water, or power posing your way to success, but rather a belief system. What do you actually believe in? Why are you giving this presentation in the first place? And I'm a perfect example of this. I started MasterTalk when I was 22. And I started coaching C-level executives– for those who don't know, that's like CEOs and stuff – at the age of 23. Why do people double my age trust me with their transformation? And why someone like me, who's this young, why don't I have any insecurities in coaching them? Now that is the question worth asking. And the answer to that question is simple. Preparation – I've presented 800 times probably, and I'm not exaggerating that. But the other side, which is more important for people, is I have a point of view on how the world should be. Was I scared to coach those executives the first time, was I afraid? Absolutely. But the other side of that, which is more important to add, is I believe in a world where people who can't afford communication resources can still access them for free anyways. But it's because of that belief system, Jeremy, that I'm able to coach those executives. Because my point of view is saying, I need their money, so I can make better videos for other people. So if I don't pull up my pants and say, 'Hey, I need the confidence to figure this out', then I'll never do it. So, that's what I want people to understand, is what is that belief system for you? Even if you have a nine-to-five job and you're looking at me like, 'Well, I work at a bank, where's the belief system there?' There's always something that you do in your life, whether it's coaching a group of kids in an after-school programme, whether it's volunteering for an organisation you care about, whether it's raising money for a charity that really means something to you. Find that passion, find that topic that you can present about and solve that confidence issue.
Jeremy Cline 8:02
So, practically speaking, say you're part of a fundraising group. How do you then go about getting that practice if it's not a medium that necessarily lends itself? Do you just look for an opportunity to say, if someone says, 'Hey, we need someone to speak about this', then you step forward, you put your hand up?
Brenden Kumarasamy 8:18
Good question. So for me, it's not really about presenting to 50 people or 100 people. My first keynote for MasterTalk was three people. It's not about the number of people or how official the event is, but rather, are you practising that presentation over and over again? Are you actually out there presenting? So, here's a step-by-step practical, how I play this out. Find the repeatable presentation. What is the one topic that you can present a lot of times? So, in your case, Jeremy, it's pretty simple – it's your own podcast. What are you trying to achieve with it? Who do you want to help? What are you trying to inspire people to do with it? And then step two, after you make the presentation, is find local communities or just your family who want to listen to it. That's what I did with MasterTalk. And then after that, as you get better with the pitch, after you've presented it 10, 20, 25 times, then what's going to happen is local chambers of commerce, where you reach out to, say, 'Hey, Jeremy, we know you, why don't you come give a presentation?' And then you blow their socks off. And at some point, after a couple of years, you find yourself on the stage and just say 'How did I get here?' But that's the secret – it's present one topic, present it well, and present it to anybody who wants to listen.
Jeremy Cline 9:32
But let's apply this in a work context. I'm curious to see how far I can push this, actually. So, let's say I am a lawyer in a law firm, I'm three years qualified. I work in a particular technical area, something has happened and I have been asked to prepare a presentation to the rest of my team about this particular change in law or something like that. And maybe it's the area in which I work, maybe it does interest, maybe it doesn't interest me – whichever. And I've got two weeks to do it. I've never done anything like this before. And I'm basically terrified at the prospect because there's going to be all the partners there, there's going to be senior people, all that sort of stuff. So, how does this person who, maybe they haven't had a great deal of experience at speaking to large groups of people, where do they start to prepare for this kind of thing?
Brenden Kumarasamy 10:26
Absolutely. The way that I see this, and this has worked on six-year-old kids all the way up to SVPs of companies that I've coached over the years – it's always, do the harder thing, Jeremy. So, if you think about that lawyer who has that partner presentation in two weeks, yeah, they're afraid. So, the only way to fix that is two ways – make them do the harder thing, which I'll explain in a couple of minutes. And then the second part of that equation is saying, okay, how do I reframe public speaking in a way that that person wants to practice it? Okay, so I'll give you an example. I have a presentation in two weeks, partner meeting. But this is also something I've practised – I went to law school, so I know something about law, I just don't know that particular section that you mentioned. So what I do with this person is simple. I would force them, for a week, to present something they have zero expertise in. I call this exercise the random word exercise. Essentially, what I'd force this person to do for the next four to five days – let's say I was coaching them, let's kind of play this out, and you can do this at home, for free – is you make them present topics that have nothing to do with being a lawyer. 'Talk about avocados for a minute', 'Talk about lights for a minute.' What this does is it freaks them out. They go, 'Well, I don't know anything about that'. 'Exactly. So present it'. And then over time – and I'm happy to demonstrate this, by the way, Jeremy, if you want to give me a random word after – but the idea is, over time what happens, let's call this person Josh – as Josh gets more comfortable with those random words... At the beginning, he thinks it's a dumb exercise. He's like, 'Why am I doing this thing?' But over time, when he gets to that lawyer presentation, the date gets closer and closer, he starts to realise that, 'Hey, wait a second. If I could talk about avocados for a minute, or hippos, why am I so scared of this presentation that I'm a subject matter expert in? This makes no sense.' That's where the mindset shift happens.
Jeremy Cline 12:10
And who is Josh presenting to, or is he just practising in front of the mirror?
Brenden Kumarasamy 12:14
Good question. Ideally – this is what I do with the people in my programme, and you can use this if you want – I pair them up. So, for example, let's say there's eight people in a group, you pair them up with each other and they do the exercise with each other. So that way, there's accountability. So, you could do that with a cousin. Let's say I was doing this with you, we were buddies, it's not really hard. You don't really need coaching or professional help for this. It's really just, 'Do avocado, I do'... And then over time, you get better. And then because you do it so many times, and each exercise is a minute, and once you've done it thousands of times like I have, then after that you're pretty confident in any area.
Jeremy Cline 12:14
I really like this idea, and it actually reflects back quite nicely. The subject of improvisation has come up in a couple of previous episodes, where I had one guest who did some improvisation classes, and another one who actually used to perform improvisation onstage. And both of them have said how it pushes your boundaries, but one of them said, you've got to go somewhere, and you don't have a choice, but you have to go somewhere. And so, just the practice of it, it sounds exactly like your single word test. I think it's a great idea, just a way of pushing it. And I guess that will also prepare you well for if you turn up to an interview and you're given the subject line but nothing much to go on, then it gives you some preparation that enables you to present on that particular subject or answer the curveball questions that come at you.
Brenden Kumarasamy 13:38
Absolutely. I completely agree. Public speaking is 90% mindset at the end of the day. If you believe you can be a great speaker by doing the harder thing, by doing the harder exercise, you'll be successful. The other part, I would like demonstrate, because I get a lot of pushback on these weird exercises, where they go, 'Brenden I work as a lawyer. How am I supposed to get better as a presenter if I do something that's not related to law?' What people need to understand is that the only way to improve your communication skills on an exponential basis – very, very quickly, we're talking in a couple of weeks – you want to think about your presentations in extremes. What does that mean? You are better off as a lawyer doing a motivational speaking presentation about your health because that type of presentation requires all of your techniques as a speaker. You need to master silences, you need to get rid of all your filler words. Your goal is to inspire the crowd, which means all of your technique needs to be perfect. When you bring that technique to your regular, mundane presentations at work, your presentations at work skyrocket in skill. And I'm a good example of this. I work as a technology consultant at IBM, so I work with clients across the world and I present to them all the time. But the reason I'm a good presenter is not because of work. And I tell them all the time – it's because of the techniques I learned in competitions that made me a really good speaker for things that are more motivational-type speaking. And then when I brought that back to work, they said, 'Wow, your technique's really good.' Right? It's the opposite. You want to do something in a fun way, so that when you get to the thing, you'll be successful. It's like if I told you, 'You know, Jeremy, to pronounce'... Your pronunciation is great, but let's say your pronunciation was bad, and you said, 'How do I fix it?' It's like if I told you, 'Every day, open a notebook and just read sentences for an hour'. Are you really going to do that? No, you're going to give up. Unless I'm coaching you and I'm sitting next to you, and watching you do it, you're not going to do it, because it's boring.
Jeremy Cline 15:31
I think what's particularly resonating is, going back to my lawyer example, and because I'm a lawyer myself, quite often you're going to be talking about topics which, with the best will in the world, they're quite dry. They're quite technical, they can be quite black letter. So, what I'm hearing from you is that yeah, sure, part of the battle is knowing your topic. So, understanding, having the knowledge. But a larger part of it is actually the way that you present the subject to your audience so that it is interesting, engaging, fun.
Brenden Kumarasamy 16:05
Absolutely. And just in the context of lawyer, in case there's some lawyers listening. A lot of my friends who are lawyers, who are the best presenters that I know, it's not because they got it at work, it's because they did moot court. It's because they did debate, because they did Model UN. They did a lot of extracurricular activities in university that they found fun. They're like, 'Wow, I got to defend a country and then argue that', and then they went back to work, and they're doing articling or some other thing at a law firm. They're really exceptional at communication.
Jeremy Cline 16:34
Okay, so the lawyers or other people who haven't done all of that extracurricular stuff, but they're finding that presenting is part of their job. Can you start, maybe, with the person who first comes to you and says, 'Okay, can you give me an exercise or two that I can try either on my own or with a friend, or just something to start building my confidence and to start building these skills?'
Brenden Kumarasamy 16:58
Yeah, absolutely. So, definitely the random word exercise is one of them. But if that's something that's a bit scary for a lot of people, I'll give you the easiest trick in the book that will easily 10x your communication skills. It's called the puzzle method. In many ways, Jeremy, public speaking is like a jigsaw puzzle. You know those 1,000-piece puzzles you put together with your family? I guess now because of COVID everyone's probably doing puzzles. So, if I asked you, Jeremy, if you're working on a puzzle with your family or people in your house, which pieces would you start with first and why?
Jeremy Cline 17:29
I'm terrible at jigsaws, but I'd always start with the corner pieces, and then the edge pieces.
Brenden Kumarasamy 17:33
And what would be your rationale there?
Jeremy Cline 17:35
The corner pieces are the ones that are easier to find, and then after that the edge pieces are the next easiest to find, and it gives you the frame in which hopefully you then start to build the picture.
Brenden Kumarasamy 17:47
Yeah, exactly. Don't worry, I didn't expect you to be a puzzle expert. You never know, sometimes they are. You're like, wow, these people are experts. But anyways, you're right. Most people start with the edges first. The question we need to ask ourselves is, why don't we do that in public speaking? We have a presentation at work, in business, or school. So, what happens? We start with the middle pieces first, the content. In other words, we start with the middle. We get to the presentation, we get to the last slide of that presentation, and it sounds something like this, 'Yeah, so thanks...' That's probably 97% of all the presentations I've listened to in my life. So, how do we fix this? Much like jigsaw puzzles, start with the edges first. Do your introduction 50 times – not three times, not five times – do it 50 times. But guess what? It's actually not that hard. It'll take you an hour and then you'll be done. Same thing with the conclusion – 50 times. What's a great movie with a terrible ending? A terrible movie. So, spend some time doing that too. In two hours of practice, Jeremy, you'll have given an introduction and a conclusion you never would have been able to give in your life because nobody thinks of doing the same introduction over and over and over again. And then when they look at their intro, they go, 'Wait a second, I'm really good at this public speaking thing. This is actually not so bad.' Then tackle the middle. But much like jigsaw puzzles, as you probably know very well since you don't really like them, is when you're working on a 1,000-piece puzzle, why would you ever do that on your own? Do it with friends, do it with family. Even today as a professional speaker, I still get friends to look at my keynotes. I still get cousins to watch me present so I can get their thoughts. Always ask for help.
Jeremy Cline 19:36
When you're doing your intro 50 times and when you're doing your conclusion 50 times, are there ways that you can yourself work out how to improve it, or is this something where you've just got to do it in front of people and get feedback? Which, speaking from personal experience, nothing beats getting feedback from other people. But if you're not in a position or maybe a bit shy about it, is there anything which you can do yourself to improve your intro and your conclusion?
Brenden Kumarasamy 20:05
Absolutely. The answer is both. So, the way that I think about this is this idea of how public speaking works as a skill. So, as you get started, let's say you've got a coach or you've got a friend, or you've got a colleague who's helping you, anyone can give you advice until you're a top 5% speaker, pretty easily. It's like, 'Oh, Jeremy, you should pause a bit less, it doesn't sound really good to me', or 'You should pause more.' You know, simple. But then as you get better at communication, the advice becomes more and more subjective. It's like, 'Jeremy, I think you should speak louder,' even if you really shouldn't, it's just your style as a communicator. That kind of thing. So, same thing applies with the puzzle method. At the beginning, you can totally give yourself feedback. If you just present it 50 times, I guarantee if it's the same intro, it will sound better after 50 times. And the best example I can give, for those of you who are listening, is Jeremy's podcast, who's been following him from episode one. When he has 50 other episodes, compare both, you'll realise that he's a lot better at Episode 50. Why is that? Right? Trust me, it's true with 100% of the podcast hosts I've talked to. But the reason is simple. It's not because we're super special or anything. It's because the format of the podcast always stays the same. It's a calm intro, ask a couple of questions, probe the questions, ask them for the tool, and then that's the presentation. The only thing that changes is the guest. Research, the framework, everything stays the same. That's why podcast hosts get really good at communication, not because there's a magic formula, because the format stays the same the entire time. So, same thing here. And then after you get really good at intros – I'll give you a pro trick since no one can go outside right now – when you do your intro, record yourself on a phone, you don't need a fancy camera, just a phone, send it to 3 people and then ask them for timestamped feedback. What does that mean? That doesn't mean 'Hey, Jeremy, can you give me feedback on this?' No, that's too general of a question, especially if they're not professional. What you want to do instead is say, 'Hey, Jeremy, I made this one-minute, two-minute video. Can you give me timestamped feedback? That means go into the video and when you find a mistake, tell me the timestamp of where that mistake happens.' So, let's say Jeremy is giving me feedback. He doesn't say, 'Brenden, this sucks.' He goes, 'Brenden go to 45 seconds into your thing.' And then you go, 'Why are you smiling when you're talking about a car accident?' Right? I probably shouldn't do that. But because three people are giving you feedback on different timestamps, you can quickly look at all of them, see all your mistakes, and then the second version of your presentation will sound 10 times better. I personally do it with 20 to 25 different people. So, these are some of the best speakers that I've met in my life. So that my second iteration is 100 times better. But start with the beginning and then work your way up.
Jeremy Cline 22:53
Let's talk a bit about content. So, go back to our lawyer and the slightly dry presentation. And they've done their 10, 20-second intro and they've practiced it 50 times and it's brilliant, and they practice the 10, 20-second conclusion, and it's brilliant. You've got your topic, how do you choose what content to put in it so that it matches your brilliant intro and conclusion? And also that it gets the message across that you want it to to your audience?
Brenden Kumarasamy 23:22
So, one thing I want to emphasise right away, this is the only part of the framework that is not perfect. It is impossible for you to get the perfect content on your first try. And that's why I'm a big believer in doing the same presentation many, many times. And I'll give you the best example here. Tony Robbins, who's probably one of the greatest speakers on the planet right now. He has been doing the same seminar longer than you've been alive. For 40 years, he's been doing the same thing. UPW has been an event he has been hosting for all this time. So, let's say we went to a seminar this weekend, me and you, we go, we go to his event in Birmingham or something. And he looks at us and he goes, 'You know, Jeremy, I've been doing this mindset thing for 40 years. You want to talk about porcupines instead this weekend?' You're going to look at him and say, 'What are you talking about Tony? I spent 2,000 pounds to be here! I don't want you to talk about porcupines, I want you to give me the same presentation that you gave all the other billions of people. Don't disappoint me.' That's what we expect from the best speakers in the world. Not only do we not want them to switch topics, we want them to stay on topic, and that's what we pay them money to do so. So, same thing with this. Of course, I'll share a bit of the framework, but I just want to give a general idea for people to think about it. At the beginning. your content is always going to be bad for the simple reason that you haven't mastered the content yet. I'll give you an example. A lot of people ask me, 'Brenden, how do I get people to stay engaged?' I go, 'How many times have you given that presentation?' They go 'Once.' I go, 'Do you know how many times I've given my keynote?' They go, 'How many times?' I go, 'Three hundred and fifty times.' The same keynote, over and over and over and over again. And that is a requirement – not 350 times, you can do it 20 times, totally fine. But what I mean in this sense is, at the beginning, when you prepare a speech, Jeremy, the only question that matters to you, even if you want to think about the other ones, but we're still getting started in public speaking, is what content should I put in these slides? But then over time, after you present it 15, 20 times, you go, 'Wait a second, does Jeremy actually understand me when I'm speaking? What emotions am I conveying to him? Am I doing a good job? Maybe I should get dinner with Jeremy and ask him some questions.' That never occurs to people until they present many, many times. But of course, I'll give you a framework to think about.
Jeremy Cline 25:47
I'd be interested in a framework which in particular can be used for one-off stuff. So, if we go back to our interview example, and as part of the interview process you've been asked to give a presentation on when I made a difference, just to take a random example. And if it's part of an assessment day process, it's not something that you're likely to repeat. So, in that context, perhaps you can talk to how you'd set a framework as best you can for that sort of thing.
Brenden Kumarasamy 26:19
Of course, I'm happy to. But the one that I want to emphasise for people, before I give that framework, there's no 4K in public speaking. If you want to be really good really quickly, you need to present outside of those types of environments, or else you just won't get better. It is the fact that you present that same presentation 100 times that makes you extremely good in that one-off situation. It gives a huge advantage over everyone else who didn't prepare. I just want to point that out, but I'm happy to share the framework. The first thing is simple: what is your key idea? If you were to summarise your entire presentation in one sentence, what is that sentence? And I'll give you a great scenario to think about this for the presentation you want to repeat, but also applies for the context that you gave as well, which is the following. Let's say it's your last presentation ever. And after you give the presentation, you never get to present again. Morbid, but hear me out. In that context you can present for as long as you want. Five minutes, five hours, you pick, except a couple of issues. Your audience will not remember anything. They won't remember your name. They won't remember your title. They won't even remember your content. But they'll remember one sentence. What do you want the sentence to be? That is how you figure out your key idea. So, in the context of what you gave, which is, Monday assessment, I gotta do this job, I gotta figure it out. I can only figure out the one sentence the day of, which is when I enter the presentation and they tell me what the topic is and what I need to do. I need to go through the entire business problem or whatever they have for me and figure out what that one sentence is that summarises all of the thoughts. And I'll use myself as an example. What is my intention with this podcast? My sentence is simple: convince you that you can master communication. If I make communication sound so simple and easy, puzzles or frameworks that I give, and you're convinced – you're going to do everything. You're going to practice, you're going to go to Toastmasters, and my job is done. And for you, you need to have that intention first and then you can drive the home run. Okay, so bringing this back, now that we have our key idea, what's the next step? The next step, once again, is simple. What is the best way to defend that key idea? Public speaking is like a toolbox. There's many different tools in the box. You don't have to use all of them, but you should use some of them, and the best ones you should use are the ones that you're most comfortable using. Humour, sarcasm, personal stories, quotes, anecdotes, statistics, pick the ones that you like and also ask yourself, which one of those tools defends my key idea in the best possible way? If you're a PhD student defending a thesis that you've been working on for five years, let's just say your statistics are going to come more in handy versus a personal story that those academics probably don't care about in that actual presentation. But in a context like this podcast interview, I only tell stories because that is what sticks, that is what you'll remember. And my goal is not for you to remember the complexities of the subject, but rather take one or two actionable steps to walk away. So, depending on each individual presentation you do, the toolbox is going to change and what you pull out of the toolbox is also going to change. But your job as a speaker is to figure out what the key idea is, defend it in the best possible way, and the third thing that is the most important, keep testing. Not in the context of pre-day – you kind of have to figure it out as you go – but in the context of a repeatable presentation. And that's true with me, I had to reiterate my presentation so many times because I messed up in so many ways in how I communicated my ideas to the world, because when I started I sounded way too academic. I would say, 'Oh, you should totally avoid glossophobia', and then people are like, 'What is glossophobia?' For those who don't know, it's the medical term for the fear of public speaking. I choose not to use those words anymore, because they're not useful to people. They're not useful to helping them grow. So, I want people to do the same thing with their presentations.
Jeremy Cline 30:05
Taking it back to basics, something that I'm sure that people will be able to look at themselves and go, 'Oh, yeah, I do do that. And oh, yeah, I do that as well.' What are some of the most common mistakes that people make when they give a presentation?
Brenden Kumarasamy 30:19
I always like to give counterintuitive advice. So, besides the good old, 'people practice in the wrong way', in the sense of, you want to practice one presentation 100 times, and apply puzzle. I would say besides that, they don't have a clear reason why they want to master communication. And I'll give you one question that you can reflect on that will help you and then we can go into tactics. The question is simple. How would the world change if you were an incredible speaker? Simple question. Hard to answer. Doesn't mean you need to be a professional speaker, doesn't mean you need to be a podcaster or a YouTuber. It just means, how would the quality of your life improve if you were just better at communication? We need to understand, Jeremy, that communication has very little to do with presentations. It is rather every interaction that you have in your life, from this very podcast, to the way that you interact with your family, to the tough conversations you have with that family, to the good ones, to the dinner conversations, to every single interaction. And once you realise how better your life would be if you were a master communicator, you're much more incentivised to practice it. Which brings us to the tactics. I'm sure you're probably asking me about filler words, how do we get rid 'uh', 'blugh', 'huh', 'you know's, 'like'. This is what we need to understand about filler words. Filler words are a way for us to buy time. If Jeremy asks me a question in a podcast, and I don't know the answer, what most people do is the following: 'Yeah, that's a good question, Jeremy. Um, uh, oh, yeah, this is the answer.' So, notice how I'm using filler words to buy time to figure out what to say next. Whereas what the best speakers on the planet do is when Jeremy asks a question, we say, so fluidly - nothing. We replace those same filler words with nothing. And that's the key, with pauses. So, how do you fix this? Simple trick. I call it long pauses and stares. The best speakers in the world don't tell you this, but they have an ability to pause forever, and never make it look awkward. But obviously, we don't have forever. But usually, I can pause for five minutes at a time and not make it seem awkward at all. So, what you need to do is you need to get very comfortable pausing for excruciatingly long periods of time, so that when you present in an actual pitch, in an actual presentation, you're very comfortable pausing for three to five seconds. So, my exercise is simple. For those of you indoors and have somebody else in that house, go stare at them for five minutes without a phone. You're allowed to blink, you just can't say anything. Most human beings can't do that. If you do that, you will be a lot better as a speaker than you used to be.
Jeremy Cline 32:53
I'm conscious that we are going to run out of time before too long and I would just love to touch on briefly one topic. And that is the fact that you've already mentioned in the COVID pandemic, we are now doing so much more stuff online. And it is very, very difficult, particularly when you're giving a presentation, to get feedback from your audience. So, you and I, we're doing this over video – I can see you, you can see me, so we can get a certain amount of feedback. We're now seeing people giving presentations to 50 people, 100 people over Zoom, whatever it might be, and you might be able to see some of them. Chances are, you probably can't see any of them, and so you cannot get anything. How can you deal with that so that you can still deliver a knockout presentation?
Brenden Kumarasamy 33:41
Honestly, the only solution, Jeremy, that I've thought of is a couple of things. One is a simple one you can implement, which is put a picture of somebody that you love next to the camera lens. So that you can always look at the camera lens. Because if you don't look at the lens, it doesn't look like you're paying attention to your audience. So, that would be the first thing. Second thing is try and meet one of the people on the call on a virtual call, if possible, or at least understand the demographic of who you're presenting to and why they're sitting in that virtual Zoom call with you. So, yesterday, I gave a presentation to 110 students for one of Canada's virtual conferences for students, and I couldn't see anybody. But I showed up with love, excitement, positivity, because I knew who was on the other side of that line. That is not an overnight process. I think the key – and hence why in-person presentations are a lot easier, because you can actually see the other person, you can actually shake their hand and talk to them – is you want to get to know the core demographic you're speaking to, whether it's for a virtual Zoom call, you want to understand their pain points, what they aspire to be, what they dream about, and constantly be reminded of those things. Third trick, if you can implement it - I actually do this with the YouTube videos, which is simple, not many people know this – is, I don't actually film alone. A lot of people in this space, they film alone, so that way, it's really hard for them to pull energy. And that's what I did for the first eight months, when I couldn't really afford to hire anybody. But then after nine months, I was like, no, I can't do this alone, I hate this. So, I hired my best friend to sit there and record me. So, that's how I'm able to still bring energy even if there's nobody in the audience besides him.
Jeremy Cline 35:16
That's brilliant. You make a really interesting point that relates to eye contact. The listeners can't see this, but you have spent pretty much all of this conversation looking at the camera so it looks like you're looking at me. I am very conscious that I am looking at you on the screen, which means, in fact, you are looking at me looking slightly down. And that is something that is just so counterintuitive – to stare at the camera, rather than stare into the eyes of the person you're talking to. I think that's just something to be aware of, and try and change.
Brenden Kumarasamy 35:45
Absolutely. And trust me, this is practice, because I've just been doing a lot of virtual keynotes, forcing myself to always look at the lens.
Jeremy Cline 35:53
There's been a lot of fantastic tips. Have you got anything – resource, book, something like that – which people can use if they want to explore this topic a little bit further?
Brenden Kumarasamy 36:01
Absolutely. Thirst by Scott Harrison. I think Scott's an incredible example of somebody who not only took a lot of these techniques, but applied them to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for a cause he cares about, which is the water crisis and getting people access to clean drinking water. I think as business owners or people who have a job, or people who want to make a difference, it's always great to learn from somebody who has less resources, because he built a world-class brand, with what he's done, through storytelling and branding, and messaging and public speaking, because he speaks 150 times a year or something crazy, but he's been doing it on a non-profit budget. So, I highly recommend Scott's book.
Jeremy Cline 36:40
Brilliant. And if people want to find you, see your content, where's the place for them to go?
Brenden Kumarasamy 36:45
Absolutely, YouTube's the best place to go. All you have to do is type MasterTalk in one word, and you'll find me.
Jeremy Cline 36:51
Cool. I will link to all of that in the show notes. Brenden, thank you so much. This has been amazing.
Brenden Kumarasamy 36:55
Of course, my pleasure.
Jeremy Cline 36:57
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Brenden Kumarasamy of MasterTalk. I wanted to include this episode in Take Action January for a couple of reasons. The first is that it's a skill which all of us would benefit from building. And whilst we're in the frame of mind of New Year's resolutions and taking action, then maybe this is something that you can start to think about – how you can improve your own presentation skills, because it's something which is so valuable. And as Brenden said, it's not just about presenting to large groups of people, but it's about improving your communication skills generally. The second reason is that as remote working becomes more common, presentation skills and the ability to communicate with people is just going to become ever more important. It really is quite a lot harder to engage with people over Zoom or videoconference, Skype, whatever it might be, and so honing these skills is really going to put you in a good position as you develop your career and decide what you're going to do in the coming 12 months. Clearly, there's a lot of things that you can do to improve your presentation skills, and all the frameworks and exercises which Brenden provided could be quite daunting. But remember, you don't have to do everything all at the same time. Maybe just start with one exercise, which you think, 'Oh yeah, I could do that.' Even if it's consciously trying to avoid filler words like 'uhm' and 'ah' and 'so' and practising pausing. People will probably notice as you talk to them – you'll sound more confident, you'll sound more fluent. It's definitely a great exercise to try, and it's not something that you need to involve anyone else with. There's a link to Brenden's YouTube channel in the show notes for this episode, and you'll also find a full transcript if you want to go back and check any of the points that we talked about. They're all at changeworklife.com/72. And also on the website, you'll find links to my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook profiles, so do check out those links and follow me there. They're a great way that you can share these episodes to your following. There's going to be other people who need to hear what Brenden had to say about your brilliant presentation skills, so do go ahead, go onto those platforms and share this episode. I'd also love it if you'd leave a review on Apple podcasts or whatever platform you use to get your podcasts, they really do help others find the show, so please leave a review. A five-star review would be amazing. Please just go ahead and leave a review and help others find the show. So, that's January wrapped up, and guess what? We've got some more great episodes coming down the track. So, stay tuned, subscribe, and I can't wait to see you in the next episode. Cheers. Bye.
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