Becoming A World Champion Speaker with guest Darren Lacroix

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I entered the World Championship of Public Speaking in 2019 and lost in the second round. When I lost, I realised I still had room to improve and grow and Darren Lacroix was the person who helped me to start doing that and taking my speaking to a level I had not previously realised existed.

Darren Lacroix won the 2001 world championship of public speaking with his hilarious talk ‘Ouch’, which is well worth a watch. In this episode, we discussed what it takes to become a world championship-winning speaker and the most important elements to work on if you want to be a champion yourself or just want to be a better, more engaging, more humourous and expert level speaker.

We discussed this year’s world championship, being the first one ever fully online and the winning speech for 2020 from Mike Carr and what the main differences were between presenting virtually and presenting live.

Darren has his own online courses and programs which I have been through myself with his Stage Time University. I highly recommend you check it out and learn not just from Darren but from his mentor and co-trainer Mark Brown and world-renowned speaking trainer Patricia Fripp. You can also check out his podcast with Mark Brown for free here.

Transcript

John Ball
Welcome to the speaking of influence podcast with virtual business speaker presentation skills and influence Coach John Ball. Remember to like and subscribe.

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Welcome to the show today, I am very happy to have with me a guest who I have learned so much from over my years. He is at the top of the heap in the world of Toastmasters, and certainly someone who has a lot of value to share. And I’ve been very much looking forward to having him on the show. I’m very grateful that he’s agreed he won the Toastmasters World Championship of public speaking in 2001. He has a whole series of online courses and programmes as well as his own podcast show, and is an amazing guy to learn from. I can say from my own experience, please welcome to the show, Darren Lacroix.

Darren Lacroix
Hey, thanks. Thanks for having me here.

John Ball
I’m really, really pleased to be speaking to you there. And just I mean, I shared on my show before and I’ll share it here again. Now, the reason why I first came to even know about you was after having having a bit of a failure in a competition that I thought I was gonna win and coming away with that sort of analysing as in Where did I go wrong? And what could I have done differently? And then something in? Clearly, I don’t know, as much as I thought I know that maybe there’s maybe there’s some space for growth and development here. And somebody recommends that I check out your website, which I did, and realised right away that there was a lot of stuff that I didn’t know, and and I signed up for your online courses right away. So that’s where I first came to know about you. And I have to say that those those programmes have been really, really helpful to me.

Darren Lacroix
Thank you. Thank you. Well, you’re not alone. Because I was in the same boat in 2001. Before I met Mark Brown who coached me I really my ego was in my way, but I didn’t know and I think that’s what as you know, that’s one of my key messages be a sponge. Yes, sponge. We’re never done learning. And as soon as we think we’re good, and I should have won that like, nope, there’s another lesson to be learned and I love… Do you know who Steven Tyler is?

John Ball
The lead singer from the I’m gonna forget the name of the band now… Aerosmith.

Darren Lacroix
So I’m a Boston guy. So I grew up in Boston area. But he was one of the judges. I think it was America’s America’s Got Talent or American Idol. I don’t remember. Anyway, he was one of the judges. And he was being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. And it was a video I came across and I was just fascinated. And he said when I was a judge that goes American Idol. He said when I was a judge on American Idol, when I told people you weren’t the American Idol and sent them home, basically, he said, I wasn’t saying you’ll never be the American Idol. He was saying today. You’re not the American Idol yet. And he said it broke my heart because he said a lot of the people who he was in front of and or was in front of him. They were so talented. They were more talented than he was when he started. But people would take it so personally, and they would just it would just be a blow and you could see them just giving up completely. He’s like, No, you just need to go back to the clubs and learn a few more lessons. And I love the idea because he’s talking about like nightclubs playing bands. For me in the Toastmaster world, it was like you need to go back to the club and learn a few more lessons. But I think one of the challenges is I love Toastmasters. I’m still a member today I will be for the rest of my life because not just what it did for my speaking but what it did for my own self confidence. But I think one of the challenges it’s designed to help people get become confident. It’s not designed to make them world class. And I think that’s a mistake that some Toastmasters don’t see. Again, nothing wrong with that. It’s still awesome. It’s amazing to get up and become competent. But I needed that world class advice from Mark brown when he held up a mirror when I think you might know the story. But if you’re listening and don’t know, it was so excited. In the speech contest. There’s six levels and I had won the fifth level. I was going to World Championship when I met Mark Brown. So I had some competence. I had been a speaker for seven years, I was in for Toastmaster clubs, and I was the king of the club because no one could give me feedback. So that’s why my ego got big and I drove two and a half hours to work with my coach. Mark Brown. And at that level, I had to write a brand new speech from scratch. And I really didn’t know is trial and error, my whole career, just one keynote speech and little comedy bits. But anyway, I wrote this brand new speech from his advice, but I didn’t send it to him ahead of time, because I wanted to see the joy on his face when he saw how talented I was. And, Mark, if you don’t know Mark Brown, he stands about six foot two. He’s a native of Jamaica, he’s got this beautiful booming laugh, like the guy from the Old Seven up commercial. Oh, well, that was my coach. I remember standing there in the meeting room in Reader’s Digest New York, I drove from Boston to New York, two and a half hours. And I handed mark the greatest speech in the history of Toastmasters. And I couldn’t wait to see his reaction. And when Mark got the speech, he looked at it. Oh Darren, we have some work to do. Everything you told me to do, I wrote the greatest speech that I could write from the level and the knowledge that I had. And John, I got a very valuable life changing message in that moment. And he, what I learned was, if you’re not coachable, there is no cure. If you’re not coachable, there is no cure, if you’re listening is that you want to be a professional speaker? Well, are you surrounding yourself with people who are where you want to be? Because if you’re surrounding yourself with other people at the same level, you’re not going to grow. And I remember listening to Brian Tracy and Tony Robbins, in my car, I was a sponge, at the beginning of my career when I was eager, and knew that I didn’t know the challenge became when I got a little confidence. And then I thought I was, you know, I thought I was the thing. I was not the thing. And if you ever think you’re the thing, you’re sliding down my my friend and mentor,

John Ball
yeah, I can I can relate to your stories I won’t speak of in my own Toastmasters club, you know, people, people dread volunteering to give me feedback on my speeches, but for similar reasons. And yeah, it does start making thing and I feel like I’m at the top of the heap here. And I’m actually I look back, and I’m really grateful for that whole experience, because what I can start learning from you has already taken to a much higher level than I even knew existed. And, and also really reinforce the message that there’s always somewhere to go, there’s always somewhere higher to move to and further down in your development.

Darren Lacroix
Amen. Preach it brother, my, my one of my mentors, his name is Mike Rayburn. He said, the only way you can coast is downhill.

John Ball
Right? Which is really good. Yeah, there’s another you have a lot of expressions that you use in your stuff. And one of the ones that that relates to the title of what you talked about, right? stays never turned down stage time. And yeah, there’s a story you tell about you did like a stand up comedy and stuff for a while. Right. And so you had a coach and mentor in that in that world as well. And if I might, that’s what he used to say to you.

Darren Lacroix
Yeah, we were it was the story that I tell is about a year and a half into my comedy career. I was working really hard. And he had taught me stage time never turned down the stage time. His name was Vinnie, and we’re in the back of a comedy club. And I had beginning you know, in five minutes, I could maybe get four or five little laughs It wasn’t much. But from where I started, it was great progress. Now, I’ve been doing this a year and a half, driving a comedy clubs. Every weekend, whenever there was a place that I could go and sit and learn, or go do it. I was taking classes, I was reading the books and this guy goes up for his very first night. I’m sitting in the back of the club next to my mentor, Vinnie. And this guy goes up his very first night, and he just crushes it. He is so funny. It’s his first night. And I am thinking about it. His first night. I’ve been struggling for a year and a half. And I was just disgusted. And I turned him and I said, you know, how do you know who’s gonna make it? Like, am I wasting my time is what I was saying, How do you know who’s gonna make it? And he said something brilliant. He said, That’s easy. Whoever keeps going, right? Or keeps going. That’s simple. And then he said, Look, you’ve been taking that stage time thing to heart. I like that. I see you working really hard. I’m going to give you five minutes of stage time wherever I play. Now, that was huge. Because he is playing real comedy shows. I’m only doing open mic nights, amateur nights in the back of a bowling alley at a bar with six people in the audience. So this was like a real club with like 200 people laughing drinking have a good time. That’s awesome. But then he Look me dead in the eyes, he said, but if you ever, ever turned down stage time, I will never help you again. And that’s when the switch in my head happened. And it you know, I never looked at it I lived in the fear that Vinnie would find out, which was a great fear, because it got me to do what I was afraid to do. It gave me courage. Yeah, time when fear is good.

John Ball
Oh, yeah, exactly. But is that whole motivation now guys conversation often often find myself having all the understanding that while some people do have a natural talent for, for getting up on stage or for being funny, and it’s nearly always the people who work hardest, who will succeed and, and sometimes having the natural talent could be a disadvantage in the long run. Because you get to that thing of coasting thinking you don’t have to work so hard. And the people who are working, working their butts off, they’re gonna overtake you.

Darren Lacroix
Mm hmm, exactly.

John Ball
So I really I love those principles, and I’ve really taken them to heart. And that I feel that I on my show, I’ve had a lot of professional comedians recently, as well as some very humorous speakers too. So it’s been interesting to talk about humour in relation to presentations and public speaking. But it’s great to talk to people like yourself who kind of straddled both, both those worlds? What What do you see as being maybe the differences or commonalities between stand up and public speaking?

Darren Lacroix
Well, definitely courage, definitely improv the ability to adapt. One of the things that I teach speakers, no matter what, take an improv class, because it’s one of the core elements of presence. It’s one of the core elements to adapt If this happens, or that happens. And for those of you who’ve never been in the theatre world, and you take an improv class, there are going to be some wacky exercises and you’re going to think, what does this have to do? Do it Have fun, do it playful out? Some people, many people don’t know this, john. But before I wanted to be a comedian, I was actually dreaming of being an actor. And I actually started out in an improv wedding show, before stand up or rate have been right when I was starting. So as in an improv wedding show. So I got married three times a week. And I was a shy, I would even call myself a hyper introvert. I just that was part of the thing. I wanted to be on that stage. But I had no reason to be there. I was the quiet shy kid. So improv gave me that permission to be other characters to work it out to find myself to find my voice. So if you really want to own the stage, I would highly recommend taking an improv class. Yeah.

John Ball
I think that’s great, great advice. Now, I talked with a few of my guests before on the shower back in problem and few of them have specialised in that as well. And, and certainly has a huge amount of value when one who’s looking to do speaking, in your experience that how important Would you say that public speaking or speaking on platform virtual speaking these days is professional people?

Darren Lacroix
Well, I think for any business owner or executive, I just think it’s the critical skill, it’s the it factor, if you will, to have that ability to say something concisely, and interesting. And I think one of the cores of that is storytelling, having that ability to tell a story, a client story, but it’s not just here’s facts that happen. It’s telling in an emotional way that compels the audience to root for the character to become a part of the story. So it’s not just me telling the story. It’s us working out the story together, me maybe speaking it, but you feeling it and being with us. There’s a great book, I didn’t write it. There’s a great book that I recommend called Building your story brand by Donald Miller. And I highly recommend that for any business person, whether you want to be a speaker or not, whether you use speaking and presenting, but I just is the only audible. I’m an audible guy because I’m dyslexic, like, reading is painful to me. And if I really liked a book, I listened to it a second time. This is a book I’ve listened to no exaggeration, over 10 times. It’s just brilliant. And Donald Miller just has this way of taking business and connecting it to storytelling. I think every executive should at least understand even if you don’t do it, but if you’re going to do it, if you’re going to present in any way, it’s our ability to tell that story, have that lesson embedded in the story, but telling it in an intriguing way, the challenges just like when we started off the podcast, we’re talking about ego. Everyone thinks they’re a good storyteller because they got a couple of stories. Maybe their friends laugh at, okay, but does a stranger get compelled, leaning in and listening and wanting to hear it and then at the end, get that transformation and see how it’s relevant to me or my business or my company, and why I should learn more from you. I want my right on my website, it says boring loses business. We’ve got to be interesting, especially with this, you know, worldwide challenge right now, if you don’t stand out, you’re out of business. And I have a one of my phrases is old school needs a little new school, or you’re going to be out of school.

John Ball
Yeah, absolutely. Donald Miller’s book has been one of my one of my favourite reads this year. And then I came across it and I must like it. So I tend to prefer audiobooks, mainly because I can get through them a lot quicker. And we’ll walk I’ll listen on usually on double speed. And then in the gym, walking around driving in the car, I can have legit boots on and they’re great. But again, like I’ve also and it’s good stuff, I will listen to two or three times and and that is one of the ones have already had to listen to. And wrapped at the moment. Just today I started marketing Made Simple by…

Darren Lacroix
Ah yes, I have that in my in my bedroom. That’s the I’ve started it. I haven’t finished it yet. But that’s next on my agenda actually got the physical copy of that one.

John Ball
Yeah, I’m glad you mentioned storytelling, because I think that was the first programme of yours that I actually took on your online courses. And I got a lot from that I thought much I thought I was pretty good at telling stories. And then I got a lot, oh, maybe I’m not so great at telling stories I can do okay, telling no relaying an adventure or telling a story to my friends and things like that, that doing that from a stage or from even from a virtual platform is a very different, very different thing altogether. And so what what do you think for people who want to improve their storytelling, some of the key elements you could share to help people, maybe just this thing state start improving their stories?

Darren Lacroix
Yeah, be become a student of storytelling. If you’re an executive, you know, take part of this year, become a student of storytelling. And here’s a challenge for your listeners, go to your best friends. And ask them honestly, on a scale of one to 10, how good of a storyteller Am I your best friend who will be honest with you? And unless they’re saying nine and 10, every person you ask, okay, there’s room for improvement, but it’s gonna affect your communication. And so, first storytelling, I think one of the reasons like you said, you can tell an adventure, and it could be good and interesting to your friends. But an adventure is not gonna bring you business. It’s that relevance. It’s the transformation of the character. So you ask for a couple of tips. One of them is that the character must be relatable to your potential client or customer or internal coworker. Okay, if you’re trying to get a point across, they must emotionally relate to the character at the beginning of the story, there needs to be a transformation in the middle, like, what was that revelation? Was that the system was your business was your customer service? And then on the other side, how is the character change? So literally, you know, college storyboarding? What are the five basic plot points again, Donald Miller’s book is great. Another great book by Kindra Hall, Stories That Stick put that on your list if you haven’t read that one yet. But that’s another great one. And she talks about the three parts of a story, you know, the beginning the explosion, and then the, I don’t remember the term she puts on it. So number one, understand the purpose of the story get clear of the story. Another one that I’ve never really heard taught, but what’s that foundational phrase we call it? That is the lesson of the story. And 10 words or fewer, that has rhythm doesn’t have to rhyme but has rhythm to it, that that person will take away Let’s just say go back to their company or their other friends and who are also potential clients and retell that story and even if they don’t remember the story perfectly, they remember that line. You know, for me, you ask Toastmasters around the world anywhere in the world. If anyone’s ever heard of me what’s Darren about stage time stage time stage I’m because that one core that I want them to get through is unless you get on stage you know, my mentor said any day that you don’t get on stage is that they that you don’t grow. It do. We do weekly coaching calls in stage time university where we give people coaching feedback were to World Class coaches last night, we had a call. We had three people who’ve been through programmes. And one of the biggest challenges is they tell their story is in narration. narration is past tense. This happened back then. Okay, if it’s past tense, if it’s narration, we’re not, we’re less emotionally connected to that story, and in the now reliving it with you. So you need to tell it in the now and tell it in dialogue. Dialogue is the key to the power of storytelling, telling your stories and dialogue. When I first joined the championship level speech contest, I thought I was pretty good at stories. I was very animated, but not really saying anything, and not as nearly as strategic as I wanted to. And I was struggling because I had a day job and one of my other comedy mentors, his name was Dave, Dave said, Darren, stop trying to find the stories that will launch your career. And instead, take the stories you already have, and make them so good. Someone will pay to hear them.

And that was a revelation. I just thought, here’s the story. Let me just tell it, and maybe I can make it a little tighter or something. But let me just tell it, and it’s like if you’re missing the crucial elements, so I got what he was saying, but I ignored his advice for two years. Do not ignore this advice. Find a way find a model find somebody to follow Donald Miller’s book, one of my programmes, whoever it is. So in 2001, I joined the speech contest for one reason and that one reason was to look at my keynote speech, okay, I still had a day job. I was a telemarketer for Bose Corporation. That was my day job, my waiter job as I pursued my career. And sitting at my desk, I was marketing myself, every waking moment, I wasn’t working my day job, I was speaking every time I could for free or for a fee, whatever. The one thing I wasn’t doing was working on my craft. And so Dave’s advice rung through my head, he ended up passing away and just that, but that, quote, make them so good. Someone will pay to hear them. Well, for you listening to this, if you have a business make your story so good. It attracts more business. Yeah, at it that way. And so the speech contest came around. And I thought, well, if it’s a competition, what I could do is pull one of my stories out of my keynote, and give it a seven minute Toastmaster open and close and work on it, work on it work on it with my whole goal to make that story better, to then put it back in my keynote speech and an improved format. And you probably you know, Craig Valentine, he said, if you want a masterpiece, you have to master the pieces. And so I joined the contest not to win, but to improve the stories so I could improve the value of my keynote speech. And when I met Mark brown that that moment, he looked at my speech. And you know, people ask, Well, what did what did he see? Well, he could see I was telling my stories and narration past tense. And so for example, one of the quote unquote moments or mini stories of my speech was going home to tell my parents I wanted to be a comedian. So in my version, version, 1.0, handing it to mark, it sounded like this. So I went home to tell my parents or wanted to be a comedian. They were speechless. They didn’t know what to say. Interesting. But then mark had me turned it into dialogue, present tense, same story, same exact story. But instead it sounded like, so I walked into the house nervous, I walked up to my parents, Mom, Dad, I want to be a comedian. I was met by silence. Ouch. And so it’s much more especially in the context of the speech, or obviously we’re out of context, but it’s much more engaging and intriguing. When it’s dialogue. When we feel my energy and excitement, I finally figured out my dream, what I want to do in my life, and then my parents don’t say anything, because I was the quiet shy kid. So conflict is also much more apparent in the story. And great stories have great conflict. I mean, every movie is based on conflict. What’s between the main hero the character and their goal? Well conflict, that’s what makes it Ooh, how are they going to do it? anyway?

John Ball
Now I’m definitely gonna put a link to your to winning speech in the show notes because I think everyone should go and check it out. It’s a great speech. It’s really funny. I’ve watched it many, many times. I’ve had it because one of your programmes analyse it takes it apart as well, and really sort of shows how you built it and why some bits of it worked and how likely somebody Before that you had to work on and improve. So it’s well worth checking that out to see how you go about creating a masterpiece just for that, do you ever get people in your own coaching or workshops who are having the dialogue more likely? And again, I was like, and he was like, and then she was like the come across that much because like, I have a few times. It’s interesting.

Darren Lacroix
Yeah, the like, is is very unprofessional. In fact, I get called out on it. myself. And when I go through my own podcast, I have to edit out all the likes are as many as possible. Just to make it like less like, like, like, yeah, the other one of my other pet peeves is you guys, you guys, you guys. Okay, well, you know, john, whether principles we teach is speak like you’re talking to one person, speak to one look to all meaning the language have a one on one conversation? How would you say it to someone over coffee? How would you say to someone you would never be with one person having coffee and saying, you guys, like that would be weird? Like, what are you talking about? So I think it’s that connection. Again, if you’re a business, professional and entrepreneur running a business, you’re communication is the it factor? It’s the everything. It’s behind what you know, and getting that across to other people who may not have the same thought process or the same perspective that you do. So I think it’s critical, critical in business.

John Ball
Yeah. Well, one of the pieces of advice, I think I came across it the first time from you that really just made so much sense and has continued to, and I have heard it from from more people, since as well is about making sure that what you are presenting as a conversation, then you are actually carrying on that having that one to one conversation, but you’re also giving time for people to respond to have the kind of responses that they would have if you were sat down having a coffee with them. But obviously, hopefully, they’re not having talking back to you whilst you’re giving a presentation. But you still need to give them some time for their brain to process and to act as if you were.

Darren Lacroix
Yeah, the I always say I always ask when I’m doing webinars and things, what’s the most important part of a presentation. And some people say the opening the message, the audience, the closing your call to action, and they’re all important, but you just nailed it. The most important part of the most important part of our presentation is the thought process. In the listeners mind. It’s not your opening, it’s how your opening affects our thoughts. It’s not your message. It’s how your message affects our thoughts. And so like you’re saying a lot of people, we need to be conversational, but we’re having a conversation with that little voice in their head. And that is critical, that little voice in their head, if we don’t take time to pause, and let them think We’re shutting off that little voice in their head, which is rude, which we would never do in a one on one convert mouth. Some people do. But never step on someone’s thoughts. I call it because it’s rude. Well, if we want a connection, we can’t connect without them thinking about what we say. So like, you’re saying, We’ve got to let them absorb that, to go with us on that journey and feel connected to us. So understanding not just what we say, but how they process what we say.

John Ball
So coming back around to the storytelling stuff. The I was fortunate enough. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this guy. But it’s fortunate fortunate enough to have as a guest, someone who, when I carried on Mike’s story, learning storytelling journey from what I learned from you, I found a book called story worthy by a guy called Matthew Dix. If you haven’t haven’t come across him, I highly recommend check checking out he is multiple winner of the MOS story slam the, like 38 times and he’s won. like six times. He is an incredible storyteller. And one of the things that I really took away from that relates a lot to what you’re saying about doesn’t have to be the most amazing or no world world winning story. And some of his most powerful stories are just mundane life events that have had a moment of transformation or realisation in them. And that those are often those are the ones he prefers because those are the ones that people can relate to. You far better off rather than saying your amazing adventure of where you were scuba diving and you came face to face with a shark or something like that, instead telling a story that most people probably haven’t done that experience. So but sitting around the breakfast table, having a conversation or folding the laundry or something happens in those kinds of moments people can relate to because the more common experiences or at least if they can’t relate directly to it. They can say, well, that’s something that’s quite reasonable and quite light happened to anybody. And but that’s where that’s where storytelling can be really powerful. And so and that’s why I come back to that, because it just relates so much to what you’re saying about don’t go for like the the top award winning story that’s going to change, you change your career or anything like that just go for telling amazing stories, because the stories that someone like that someone like Matthew tells just captivating and some of them will search just about his daily life as in one just about walking his dog in the rain and things that you don’t wouldn’t necessarily think that’s going to be an interesting or exciting story. But you will get you will get something from that and and you get pulled in to to the story in the conversation, I think that’s a really important part of it is the being pulled into the story.

Darren Lacroix
Absolutely. And a lot of times very simple personal stories can make very powerful business points.

John Ball
It’s, it’s been interesting for me to see how in the world of business storytelling has become such a huge thing I know, I’ve already been doing work myself with some people in helping them with their, with their business stories as well with their own presentation and, and business stories. And why do you think it is become such a big thing in the world of business

Darren Lacroix
now? Well, partially, I just think it’s like, it’s time. You know, everything comes and goes in waves. And I think we’re writing the story wave. And next year, two years from now, it might still be used, but not the top thing. Everyone’s talking, excuse me, not the top thing that everyone is talking about. So I just think it’s just the hot topic, but I just think it’s so relevant. That’s why the wave is long. And I think it’ll never go away something else might, you know, come Top of Mind and news, some new technique or artificial intelligence, you know, obviously, those are high tech things. But I think the basis of storytelling, you know, goes back to the basis of language. So I think it’s just prominent now, I think it will always be relevant. And just think it’s more prominent now, especially like Donald Miller’s book, kyndra, halls book, a lot of these books that are coming out other bestsellers, while there’s a lot of, you know, advertising and things behind it, the books are so good, it gets people to rethink. And then as a result of applying these things, people get great success, well, then people are talking about that success to their other co workers, or co founders or other friendly entrepreneurs that we have in our life. So we’re telling our story, and then goes back. So I just think, you know, when a great teacher is there, and there’s several out there now, it just, it’s going to perpetuate. So I just think it’s relevant to the bottom line. And it’s simple. Rather than, you know, it’s easier to write a great story than it is to write compelling copy. A great story is compelling copy. So I think it’s also it’s more a simpler form. And I think because long copy had its day, you know, 1020 years ago, now, people want simpler, shorter, faster, and a story can fit in that. Yeah. And it’s a very powerful teaching tool as well. We’ve used forever to teach. Yep. Whether you’re religious or not. Jesus was one of the greatest salesmen they called him. Because, you know, what did he do? He taught simple things in parables, you know, and complex things in parables in a simple format. Why? So we could understand it. So if somebody doesn’t understand how you can help them in business, they’re not going to do business with you. So I just think it’s a natural for business.

John Ball
Yeah. What other aspects are presentation and public speaking are important?

Darren Lacroix
I think delivery and confidence, you know, we we do business with people we like, but if they don’t have that confidence, we don’t think they believe in their own product or what they’re doing. So that comes through sign delivery, whether it’s live or online. You can hear it in somebody’s voice, their energy and their enthusiasm, their passion, their their love of their company, their business or what they do. So I think that enthusiasm is kind of the underlying second it factor, if you will, it just gets that point across that look, I love what I do, hey, you can do business with me or not. But I love and I want to work with people who love what they do. Who doesn’t? You know, I hired a Facebook ad agency and they were they were awesome. I enjoyed working with it. They were fun. They knew their stuff. And then I started working with somebody else and it was a whole different experience because Their passion, their enthusiasm, they were saying the right things, but they weren’t saying it with good intention. They weren’t saying it with that helpful intention. So I think that is one of the underlying keys is, let us feel your intention.

John Ball
Yeah, definitely. You are part of a very exclusive group in the Toastmasters world of accredited speakers. What What does it mean to be an accredited speaker?

Darren Lacroix
Well, I’m part of two speaking organisations, both of them since 1994. NSA, the National Speakers Association, other where in the world it might be called professional PSA, but, and Toastmasters. And both of them have professional speaking designation. So I’m actually the only speaker right now at the moment of this recording that is an accredited speaker, a certified speaking professional and a world champion. But honestly, they’re letters after my name, but I’m a huge fan of the philosophy of Jim Rohn. If you don’t know Jim Rohn, look him up. He was Tony Robbins, his mentor, brilliant man. And he said, make it a goal to become a millionaire, not for the money, but for the person that makes you. So even though as a professional speaker, being a Toastmaster, I was challenged to go for the accredited speakers. So the accredited speaker is, you’re being accredited by the Toastmasters organisation, that you are professional, that there’s you have to have a list of business clients, past clients that you’ve spoken for, they have to fill out an application and survey, you have to then perform a part of your speech or 20 minutes of your speech in front of a live audience, this your virtual audience in order to quote unquote, become accredited, so you got to prove your value that you’re worth. And so I did it, I dove into the process, thinking of what Jim Rohn said, and no one’s hired me because of the letters after my name. But let me tell you, when you go through the programme, it sharpens your, you sharpen your craft, you sharpen your business, and I actually got business just by reaching back out to my old clients asking them to fill out that survey, duh, I should be reaching out to my old client anyway. So it’s an accredited speaker means you’re a professional speaker designated by Toastmasters. So it’s a process we go through. But again, no one’s hired me because of the letters after my name. No one’s hired me because of that trophy back there. But because I went for them, it sharpened to my craft. And as a result, the Speaker I became, that’s why they want me because I have the ability to communicate my message from a stage live or virtually. And so don’t go for the letters after your name go for who it helps you create who you become

John Ball
a bank. Yeah, great. I really like that I have come across Jim Rohn. For that I haven’t listened to any of his stuff for for quite a few years. But definitely he is an incredible guy. And I think I even just have that I found a recording of him. And originally I was listening to him and Zig Ziglar before no before some of the guys who can’t know both of them really good stuff around sales and development and stuff. And in terms of some of the people who are watching, listening may be looking or on a path of wanting to get paid for their speaking. And there’s a big difference between just getting on stage and speaking or going to a Toastmasters club and actually getting paid through. Is there any advice you can give for anyone who’s looking to make that transition to getting paid to speak?

Darren Lacroix
Yeah, just like we said right at the beginning go to people who are where you want to be and be a sponge? You know, find the people who are the great teachers? Yes, I teach it but I’m not the only one. You know, I you can check out public speaking business comm public speaking business comm where I have all the programmes I’ve ever created one of them trademark get paid to speak by next week. And I took all my programmes I used to sell CDs and DVDs and put them online so people can access them that way. And we have two mentoring calls every month with me and my marketing mentor. But truly, you’ve got to figure out what’s your message? Who’s your audience? And how do they know about you? Like sometimes if you’ve ever seen a paid speaker before, and you thought, hmm, I’m better than that person. You might be 1,000,000,000%. Right. Here’s the challenge. When the meeting planner was making the decision, they looked at their budget, they looked at their timeframe, and this person was the best opportunity for them to help their audience. So if they knew about that person and he didn’t know and they don’t know About you doesn’t matter how good you are, if they’re not aware. So step one is awareness, you know, social media. And yeah, there’s some people who are killing it on social media. That’s the exception. For most of us, we’ve got to get clear on our message, get clear on who needs that. So what problem that we solve? Who needs that problem solved? And how do we get in front of them? Don’t overcomplicate it, Alan Weiss, one of my business mentors, says you don’t need 5000 people to you know, come to you and be aware of you, you need the right 500. And so I think it’s a process and it’s not easy. If it’s a dream that you want to do it quickly. It’s not going to happen. Okay. Unless you’re on a reality TV show. You go to the moon on SpaceX or something like that. It’s you can climb Mount Everest, well, there’s already 50 speakers on climbing Mount Everest. So how are you going to separate yourself? So I think it’s How are you different? Who’s your what’s your message, who needs that message and is willing to pay for it? That is critical. And you know, that’s what we help people do and help people like, clean up their website and make them more compelling so that when they get traffic, they’re more good, more likely to convert that. So you’ve got to realise it’s, you’ve got to want to do it, realise it may take some time and just love the struggle along the way, or find another job finding another passion or another hobby. And I’m not saying that to be mean, because if I can talk you out of it, you don’t have the gumption to stick with it. If I can’t talk you out of it. You have a chance.

John Ball
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely agree with that. In terms of this yet, and you’ve done you’ve done a lot of blind workshops in the past, and a lot of live speaking events, and this year is maybe changed a lot of that. What sort of changes who and pivots and shifts Have you been making for yourself in your own business?

Darren Lacroix
Yeah, well, I was fortunate enough that I had been doing hybrid events. So I have my online university, but I love live, I love training, I’m more of a trainer than a keynote speaker, I do both. But you know, in one hour, I can rock your world. But I can only say so much. But if you give me two days, I can transform you. So my passion is more for the I started out wanting to get the high highs. Now I want to give the AHA. And so my business before for five years, we’ve been doing live events, but we have virtual seats. So I’m very fortunate and actually wasn’t going it was going we would always have a few people. And it allowed me to sell a few more seats. But it really wasn’t killing it. And I was even considering letting go of the virtual. And then of course when this happened, you know, it was like a switch. So I was already set up for it. But as you and I were talking earlier, I’ve been so adamant that I’ve got to upgrade my business. So my background, my lighting the sign the the oral x on the side over here, too, for sound deadening. Because I realised this is my this is now my stage, there’s 10 feet behind me. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got to upgrade. So I’ve been each week I’ve been putting out Facebook videos on here’s what I’m doing this week, here’s what I’m doing this week. So this is the culmination of many months work and one little thing after another. But I realised that immediately that, look, I didn’t who knew it was gonna last this long. But at the beginning, I knew I needed to start upgrading my studio in my home studio experience. So my events now are 100% virtual, but and then I made I created a new

a new two day event because of the new need, which is mastering virtual presentations. So mastering virtual presentations, I realised was critical. The people who I taught needed it because they had to transfer over. And so immediately within two weeks because I love teaching to me, it’s like a puzzle. It’s like putting together a puzzle without the picture to go by. When I put together a new programme, and I realised we’ve been doing the hybrid events for years. Okay, what do we do? What are the mistakes we made, and let me help other people get up and going quickly. So I do that with Mark brown and my fellow World Champion Ed Tate. So we’ve got one coming up in November. But anyway, we love what we do. So it was kind of an easy pivot, but I knew I had if I’m going to teach virtual presentations, I better have the best lighting the best camera, the best background because now I was being judged on that. And I think a lot of professional speakers don’t realise that. You know, if we can’t hear you, we can’t see you. I’ll forgive the video if it’s not perfect, but if I can’t hear you, I won’t forgive that as a listener. So I realised that On this, and then we teach this thing called pace elements, that you’ve got to change every three or four minutes, pace element, how do you keep somebody engaged for all day events? Because that’s what we do. While people, you know, say, Wow, we can’t believe it flew by because we keep them engaged. So I think, focusing on engagement, because the rules have changed. You know, it would be great if we knew someone was sitting down watching in, in their home or their office, and there was no distractions, they were in a white room, there is no phone, there was nothing else around that would be awesome and easy to keep their attention or easier. But the truth is, there’s the cat, the dog, the people have to go to the bathroom notifications going off text, Oh, I forgot I had this meeting. And so we’re competing with that. So we teach people, it’d be great to get rid of those distractions, that’s impossible. So what we need to do is be more adamant to draw people in and make the content more directly relevant to their life right now, but constantly keep that happening, constant engagement. So we teach about 20 different pace elements that you can use that we use all the time, but we teach people what they are and how to use them. So I pivoted the business going over to virtual, it’d be great to go live someday. But the cool thing is the upside, if you will, for us is that now people, and when I say us, I mean anybody who’s a who’s an expert in the world right now is that even my grandpa, my my parents who have been married this week, for 65 years, you know, they’re in their upper 80s they’re on zoom, you know, they’re on a virtual platform, they would have never been able to do that. So so many people are now much more comfortable getting online, they realise that convenience, the power of it. So now the world has been trained, whatever format, whether it’s zoom, or WebEx or teams or whatever it is, but now we’re more comfortable with this because we’ve spent so much you know, camera time camera time camera time. Okay, so now that just made our market as professional speakers and experts bigger there’s more people who can and want to access us this way if we can help them solve their problem. Yeah,

John Ball
I run a lot of online events and if you’re going to come and check out your your paragraphs, that’s one that I think I haven’t seen before. So

Darren Lacroix
you haven’t we’re waiting for you, john.

John Ball
I love when I when I joined spacetime University, which I think might have been a couple of years ago now. That one of the first things that made me think this was a this was a really good decision was a little personalised video from you to say hi and welcome. Oh, that’s really cool. I don’t think I’ve ever got that from a programme before in my life. And then I got my little membership part and welcome pack three from you is really cool. So I felt like really come into it. Whereas I think I’m going to be a little tough there.

Darren Lacroix
But one of the keys to storytelling and one of the reasons I do those personal videos and as soon as we’re done here we had someone sign up yesterday I do that is the value of like with an on on online university is onboarding, bringing people in and help them realise, hey, this person cares. Again, going back to what we talked about earlier is intention. But one of the key storytelling factors the most brilliant thing I ever learned was from man named Michael Haig. Michael Haig works for Will Smith, Will Smith runs movie scripts by Michael Haig before they release movies. He’s brilliant. But here is the wisdom from Michael Haig. He said, the purpose or the goal of any story is to elicit emotion. The goal of any story is to elicit emotion if you don’t elicit emotion, they’re never going to remember it. So just like you said with that video, it kind of struck you and it pulled you in a little closer. Well I realised when I started testing that out that very effect is that I was eliciting emotion and connecting more quickly with the people who are joining stage time and that’s important to me that’s important to my business. So here and if you’re listening to this, the video service that I love that I use is called bom bom Bo m b b OMB and it’s video email. I learned about it from my mentors for sakes and Patricia Fripp, but it works and it helps me engage through email, rather than just sending a typing an email and again, like I said, because I’m dyslexic, I’m a lot better doing a two minute video. I don’t have to worry about typos. But now you not only hear me You feel me, you feel my intention. So the purpose of that was to elicit emotion. So you spend some more time with us.

John Ball
You bet you’ve also got into the world of podcasting itself what what made you want to start your own podcast

Darren Lacroix
I realised you know when I have newsletter be a sponge calm, you can check it out and you get my top 10 speaking mistakes and my top 10 virtual mistakes if you just go to be a sponge calm, it’s free. I send out a weekly newsletter. But right away you get those two PDFs. After decades of coaching, here’s what I’ve learned, here’s the highlights. But in terms of why did the podcast is the newsletter has been the opens has been slowly dwindling. You know, I still have my core people, I have 10,000 people on my list. And I still write articles because it’s good. It’s helping me write books, etc. But what I realised is so many people were spending more time on podcasts that was like, TV’s going way down, and podcast is going way up. So here you have all these people who like the format of listening, you know, while they’re driving while they’re on the train while they’re on the bus while they’re exercising. So that’s how they’re quote unquote sponging. Well, if you have all these people who are already like that format, all I’m doing is taking my content and putting it in front of that river of people who want to absorb that way. So I realised I was really missing out. So it’s basically a way for me to give content, just like this podcast, give content. And if you really liked me, and you want to learn more, you’ll go check out stage time University. But if not, I’m going to help you, you’re going to like me, maybe you’re going to tell other people about me. So it’s again the intention and giving. And honestly, Mark Brown, my co host, Mike coach, mine of my best friends in the world. It’s fun, when you can have marketing that’s helping build your business and helping people along the way. That’s fun. We just crack each other up. We have so much fun. So it seemed like a natural format. So for me it was when I saw the numbers of podcasting and how many people are spending how many hours every week on podcast, so it was kind of a no brainer. Once I saw the facts, and then I realised it’s marketing. It’s more fun. I have more fun doing that, boom, just like this in an hour. Then sitting down to write an article that can take me several hours.

John Ball
This started this podcast started as a Toastmasters project. Funnily enough in my Toastmasters pathways, it was one of the options. I’ve been thinking about doing it anyway. And but over over the time that I’ve been doing it, I just really enjoy it. On my first episode, my first episode was with one of my Toastmasters buddies, and we’ve got that and then just like getting guests in, and it’s become just a really fun thing is taking a bit more about a life of its own. And, and and I get to have really cool conversations with people like you and it’s like, why would I want to do this? This is really good.

Darren Lacroix
It opens the door. So last week at last year at the Toastmasters International Convention there. Golden golden gavel winner was a man named john Jang. And he is like unbelievable. Like his YouTube channel, his videos his he helps people deal with rejection. Anyway, we got to sit down and interview this guy because we just met him at Toastmasters and had a conversation with him. So it’s allowing us just like you’re saying to have to meet people who I maybe never would have met before. So ours is called unforgettable presentations. And that’s me and Mark unforgettable presentation. Most

John Ball
as if you’re prepared for that there.

Darren Lacroix
Oh, I’m a marketer. I’m prepared for everything. But anyway, it just like you. I’m delighted, john, you’re having fun. You have great insight and a great heart and great attitude. And I think that’s part of the what makes a good podcast.

John Ball
I hope so. I hope so. This year is gone. And raffle winner was a friend of mine, Julian treasure. And so I’m hoping hoping to get him on the show sometime soon as well. And when it comes to competition, I actually have an email from you today because I’m on your mailing list. And and you’re talking about the critiques of the of the 2020 World Championship of public speaking, and what I mean it’s all virtual this year. So what difference Do you think as someone who is very involved in this well, what difference Do you feel that that’s really made for public speaking competitions?

Unknown Speaker
Hmm.

Darren Lacroix
Well, it’s definitely a challenge a lot of and I’m sure there are a lot of technical issues along the way. And I don’t even want to know about them, but I’m sure and I’m impressed by Toastmasters, how they made it work. You know, they’re here’s an organisation with 350,000 people around the world as members, all different cultures. And oh, by the way, you can’t do a live event. We’re supposed to be in Paris this year. So to be able to switch over I can’t imagine some of the frustration but I think it forced people to learn this format. Again, going back Why, you know, if we’re virtual Guess what, it’s also a blessing for us as experts, because now we can reach people. We’ve never reached before Toastmaster clubs who you know, I’m live in Las Vegas who maybe there’s 10 people come. Now we might have 40 people and two of them are from the Middle East and three of them are from Asia, which that was never would never happen. So I think there’s a lot of positive that came out of this very negative situation. But as far as a contest, I think, realising the communication mode has changed. So learning the new rules, and the winner Mike Carr, we interviewed him for our podcast, a woman who came in second at a really powerful speech. we’re interviewing her tomorrow for our podcast, but the challenges that they had to go through in the unknown. So it’s that bobbing and weaving, again, it goes back to improv, having that ability when people say, Oh, you can’t do that. And like, you’re gonna argue with the contest, you will lose. It’s their contest. So I think a lot of people were frustrated and upset. And I think a lot of people who were able to improvise, they are the ones who came out on top they, we coach, somebody who was in the finals, she didn’t place but she did an amazing job. His name is Maureen Cipolla, it was great, what a powerful speech. So now, it’s just forcing us to learn a new modality. And then the use of screen, you know, we talked about the use of stage, Mike Carr started, like, in the bottom, in the bottom very bottom corner, but he used the medium to get his message across very effectively. At one point, he was talking about the projector from middle school. And he, you know, he does this. And I went back to my experience with those old projectors, the younger people have no idea what we’re talking about. But anyway, it was how do you use this new medium to get your message across? And so I think that’s one of the biggest lessons learned, which we all have to learn, you know, this through this craziness. Yeah, I don’t know if I answered your question or not. But

John Ball
no, they absolutely did. And I’ll pop a link to Mike’s speech, glad I really enjoyed it as well. I’ll put that in the link as well as they can compare the difference of what she was someone who like yourself who want to speak on the, on the stage to someone who, who won the competition on on video on screen. And when it comes to being in competitions and non competitive public speaking can do you think it’s possible to get to that kind of level without coaching or anything, it’s absolutely critical.

Darren Lacroix
There will always be that anomaly in any area that, you know, somebody comes up without coaching. But for 98% of us, especially the ones who get some confidence. I look what Craig Valentine says he says, Don’t let the good get in the way of the grade. And I think that’s why we need a coach, that person that we trust that can hold up a mirror and say, Yeah, but that’s not coming across to the audience, you might say, you might mean it, you might know exactly what you’re trying to get across. So I think you need a qualified coach, not just any coach. And I think there’s many different coaches out there, we did a podcast episode on exactly how to choose the right coach for you. And I’ve had many different coaches who have different skill sets. I’ve worked with Michael Hagen one story that I’ve been telling for years, and it works and it gets a big laugh. And he helped me make it better. So I think the power I mean, think about an athlete, a high school athlete, what’s the difference between a high school athlete and an Olympic athlete? Well, their training and their coaching and how hard they work. And so you can’t be a high school athlete dream of being in the Olympics without trying to understand the process. And so I think having the right coach is critical having multiple coaches I had to in the world championship, but that doesn’t even count the people that I learned from before that. And then the other coaches like Craig Valentine, I learned so much from Craig Valentine after I won the championship, then Donald Miller like learning from his book, Michael Haig, so I don’t think we’re ever done if we’re truly want to be world class. So that’s why our podcast is unforgettable presentations. Because there’s many podcasts out there. I’m like, what are we going to focus on? So we try to uncover the stories and the strategies that make something unforgettable? Because truly, that’s where difference happens.

John Ball
Yeah, yeah, I already subscribe to your podcast and I can make sure there’s a link to it in the show notes so people can go and check it out. And it’s, it’s great and well worth tuning into. And so I really appreciate the time you spent with us today and I don’t want to have your time although I’d happily spend as long as I can. Talking to you. But, but I do for the sake of audience who do want to come and find out more of as I’ve already shared the links, but just as a reminder, what are the best places for people who are watching or listening to come and find out more about about you and come and learn from you.

Darren Lacroix
Thanks. Thanks for asking. Well, my main website is Darren lacroix.com da RENLACRIX. If you’re interested in the top 10 speaking mistakes and virtual mistakes, check out be a sponge calm, be a sponge calm, you can if you are into virtual presentations, better virtual presentations, if you go to my main website, it’s got all the links, but check out the podcast as well as you mentioned. So Darren, lacroix.com be a sponge calm, and I got a lot of freebies out there and a lot of free trainings, but I’m gonna show you there’s a whole other world just like I learned from my coach, Mark Brown, all done we have some work to do.

John Ball
I highly recommend your courses and programmes every single one I’ve done was really great value and especially for anyone who like is dawn comes get paid to speak or has to work or one has to or wants to work on a keynote speech like you’re pregnant with Patricia Fripp on keynote speaking is really, really good and very, really comprehensive. I know it’ll take you hold your hand from start to finish. It was a real pleasure to work through that. And are there any closing thoughts on our call to action or message that you’d like to leave people with?

Darren Lacroix
Yeah, you’re gonna make mistakes. When you stretch yourself, you’re gonna bomb What? Yeah, I when I bombed you in I talk about it. My championship speech I bombed I called my mentor. It was so painful as a professor, like one of my first professional presentations. I called my mentor Rick, I said, I bombed I died. They hated me. And he said so. And it’s like, how do you argue with so and I didn’t realise everybody bombed. That’s part of the learning process. So don’t let that stop you. Become a student of storytelling. Find the right mentors, the teachers that work for you, I don’t care who you do it. I love what I do. But I’m not the only one. But you need to make that individual choice. Choose to be world class at storytelling. I remind you of the challenge as 10 of your friends 10 of your friends who will be honest with you, and see what they really say and take it as a wake up call. Look, they might love you. But do people who don’t know you or don’t know your business? Are they compelled to want to follow you? And no matter what stage time, stage time stage time?

John Ball
Absolutely. I’m gonna I’m gonna try that challenge. I’m a bit scared. But I’m gonna try and see if I’m anything like as good as storyteller as I wish. I hope I am. Darren is been a real joy to speak to you today. You’ve been a wonderful guest. And I know that you’re one of the, for me, one of the best teachers out there. I’ve learned so much amazing stuff. But if you’re looking to elevate your speaking to a higher level, you are the person people should come and check out and I’ve recommended your courses and programmes to many people already and will continue to do so. Thank you for coming and being so generous with your time and your knowledge today. Really appreciate it.

Darren Lacroix
Thanks, john. Thanks for having me.

John Ball
Thanks for tuning in. Please remember to like and subscribe if you’re on Apple podcast, leave a review. If you’re on YouTube, leave a comment. whilst you’re here. Why not grab your free copy of my new ebook the five key beliefs of bulletproof business speakers from my website ESET President influence.com if you would like to get in touch with me, you can do that through the website or shoot me an email john at present influence.com or come and connect with me on social media. LinkedIn is where I hang out the most but I’m available on Twitter and Facebook as well. If you would like to find out more about courses and programmes with me, please do shoot me an email. If you’re interested in having me come and train or speak for your company or organisation. Then it can just shoot me an email or connect with me on social media. I’d love to chat with you. If you’d like to be a guest on the show or you think you know someone who would make a great guest. Again, just drop me a line. Let’s have a chat. We’ll set something up. I would love to see you again soon. So have a great week, everybody. See you next week for more great content from speaking of influence.

 

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