Happy Vs Flourishing episode 16 with Bob Ferguson and we explore the world of public speaking and communication, especially Toastmasters International.
Bob has been a member of Toastmasters for over 25 years and has represented the UK twice in the Toastmasters world championship speaking contest. As a professional speaker e is also a member of the PSA, the Professional Speaking Association and in this episode we discuss the differences between Toastmasters and The PSA, the value members receive from each organisation and some tips for finding the right club.
- Impromptu speaking
- Professional speaking
- Competition speaking
- How to find your nearest Toastmasters club
During the early part of Bob’s Aerospace career, he realised that the standard of presentation in engineering was very poor. But he was not going to do anything about it as he detested speaking in public and would do almost anything to avoid it. Then in 1995 a happen chance visit to a Toastmasters International Club changed his life and started a 25-year journey that continues to this day.
It started with him overcoming his fear of public speaking which was his only real target. After that though a whole world of possibilities opened up. He started to enter the twice-yearly competitions and by 2002 had won the UK & Ireland International Speech contest that took him to America to compete in the semi-finals of the World Public Speaking Championship; an event that was in equal measure exciting and a learning experience. It taught him the necessity of having processes in place to deal with writing high-quality speeches.
He continued to focus on improving his crafting techniques and won the UK & Ireland evaluation contest in 2005. This is a competition to provide structured, supportive and encouraging feedback to a test speaker. Then he embarked on his toughest challenge – the humorous speech crown. Humour is one of the hardest skills to learn and Bob reckons it is harder than the contest that leads to the World Championship! In 2006 he was the runner up in the competition and another 3 years of work paid off when he won the Humorous speech championship in 2009. Humour is such an important skill for all speakers to be able to make listening easy and highlight important points that Bob thinks it should be mandatory training for all speakers.
Parallel with his time in Toastmasters the last 20 years of Bob’s engineering career were spent in the space industry designing components for the European Space Agency missions to Mercury and Mars.
His speaking skills came to the fore then helping him communicate complex concepts and information with clarity and confidence. That period also Bob attracted private speaker coaching clients to improve their crafting and delivery of important presentations and speeches.
In 2017 Bob left the engineering world to focus solely on his speaker coaching and event speaking career. He now specialises in coaching technical experts to communicate their valuable information effectively. He also speaks at conferences, largely to technical managers, about getting communication in their organisations right so that information flows up and down the organisation effectively.
To find the nearest Toastmasters club to your location use this link: (This can be used no matter where in the world you are located)
Notes: Toastmasters International is a worldwide organisation with 364,000 members in 145 countries with over 16,200 clubs.
It is an organisation that promotes public speaking and leadership skill development.
It is not associated with the red-coated MCs that the word Toastmaster is associated with in the UK.
Bob can be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
His website is: www.bobferguson.co.uk
The book Bob recommends:
Craig Valentine and Mitch Meyerson:
Happy Vs Flourishing links:
Tony Winyard 0:00
Happy versus flourishing Episode 16. Welcome to the podcast where we give you ideas on how you can improve various aspects of the quality of your life. Today's episode is with Bob Ferguson, who is a former UK World Champion speaker in Toastmasters. He's also a professional speaker. He coaches people in speaking and communication. And the topic is communication, public speaking, confidence. And we touch a lot upon Toastmasters International, which have clubs all over the world, which help people in their communication skills. And we also talk about the professional speaking Association in which the PSA in the UK and we touch a little bit upon some of the other types of clubs offering help in people's communication as well. So that's this episode with Bob Ferguson. If you do like this episode, please do share it with anyone you think would get some real benefit from it. Why not subscribe to us and leave a review to let other people know what you think about the podcast. Hope you enjoy this week's episode.
Tony Winyard 1:24
Happiness versus flourishing. My guest today is Bob Ferguson. Hi Bob.
Bob Ferguson 1:28
Yeah, great. Thanks, Tony.
Tony Winyard 1:30
And you told me you were up bright and early this morning out in the frost?
Bob Ferguson 1:35
Yeah, well, not completely, I was in my garage where I've got my gym so but it gets a bit nippy first thing in the morning these days,
Tony Winyard 1:44
Winters firmly setting in. And today, one of the things that we're going to talk about is communication, essentially, I guess is what we're going to talk about and a lot of it is going to be around Toastmasters. But we're also going to touch upon some other speaking organisations and the Professional Speaking Association. You have enormous experience with both Toastmasters and the PSA don't you?
Bob Ferguson 2:11
I do Yeah, for sure. I've been in Toastmasters 25 years this year. And that's a fantastic organisation. Primarily I would say improve your communication skills. But there is a track as there is with both of these organisations, this association of speakers clubs, that does something very similar. And they both have a leadership track. So they're both geared to help people with their leadership in organisations. But primarily, I would say they're about helping people gain confidence from speaking in public, even if that's down to two or three people at work.
Tony Winyard 2:50
Do you remember what was it that made you first go to Toastmasters?
Bob Ferguson 2:57
Yeah, it was a strange, strange story, because I knew my public speaking was pants I detested it really, I would do almost anything to avoid speaking in public and giving presentations. But as I grew in my career, my engineering career, it was obvious that I was going to have to do it. And I was a big fan of the personal development tapes, the things that Nightingale Conant used to push out, and probably still do, but now on something more modern than cassette tapes. And I remember a chap called Brian Tracy on there who's quite well known in the personal development field, saying that he'd been to Toastmasters to improve your speaking skills. So somewhere it was at the back of my mind. But then just by happenstance, there was a club in Watford, and somebody I was going to have dinner with. I'd been invited there. But he'd also agreed to come and have dinner with me and he rang me up. So no, but I can't come because I've double booked and I can't let this person down again. And I just said, because I knew about Toastmasters. I just said, Well, why don't you come and have dinner early, and we're both go. And that's what happened. And the rest is they say is history. Because I was helped a lot. Because when I got to this first club, the person who ran it was a chap called Frank Furness, who's a top international speaker now, and he was very good. So he was very encouraging and supportive, and got me off to a great start.
Tony Winyard 4:28
Do you remember what your initial thoughts were when you first went in?
Bob Ferguson 4:31
Oh, yeah. I say I detested public speaking. And I can remember going to the gents at least twice before the meeting started. And then between each speech, there's a minute while people write down some recommendations for you to help you improve. And still at the back of my mind was whether that minute was long enough for another visit to the Jets. It's really ironic when you look back After all this time, but the nerves and apprehension I had in those days to think, why did they exist, but I do understand why they exist. But it is an irrational fear. And then something you can get over with practice.
Tony Winyard 5:16
I don't know whether this is true, but supposedly people fear public speaking more than they fear death!
Bob Ferguson 5:22
Yeah, that came from a New York survey. And I can't remember the date of it now. But you're right. Public Speaking was the number one fear and death was number three. But that, of course, in reality is not true, that's just where people ranked it because public speaking comes out in their mind, but given a clear choice, I'm pretty sure which they'd choose!
Tony Winyard 5:48
Yeah, exactly. Why do you think people have so much fear about it?
Bob Ferguson 5:55
I think we have fear of looking stupid, that we'll get up there and will dry out, we won't be able to speak, things will go wrong, we'll look foolish, we have a lot of information to remember. And we might forget it. So we see all the problems, we see all the things we can go wrong. Some people just don't like everyone staring at them. And I'm not sure why that is, but but they don't, they don't like to be the centre of attention. I don't know whether that's an introversion or what but yeah, for sure people don't like standing up and speaking. But the thing that gets you over it, which is where Toastmasters score so highly, is doing it, you know, you can you can have all the strategies in the world, people can teach you how to think how to think about the audience how to structure what you're doing, things that will make it easier for you to stand up and present. Yeah. But when you go to a speaker's club, and you stand up and present the first time, you will feel just as apprehensive as you always did, as I did on that very first occasion. But after you've done it once, you'll think well, that perhaps wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. But then you'll get another opportunity within a couple of weeks to do it again. And the second time it CV seems even less worrying. And very quickly, as you repeat, standing up and speaking in front of an audience, you will find that it's not that bad at all. And then once that's happened, once you've got over those initial nerves, then you can start to focus on all the things that make excellent speakers, how they structure, their content, their body language, using visual aids, well, there's a whole plethora of things to think about, that will make you a better presenter, and speaker. But none of those will really kick in until you start to feel comfortable in front of the audience. And that's what doing it does for you. The more you do it, the more comfortable you feel, then you're able to work on the polish that will make you a great speaker. Absolutely.
Tony Winyard 8:13
One of the things I noticed, and, I'm nowhere near as long as you I was a member for about eight years or so. But I remember quite a few times seeing people join and then say a year or six months later, it might be, it was easy to see the huge progress they'd made. But so often, they weren't aware of how much progress they made. And they thought they still hadn't really advanced much, that wasn't always the case. There was sometimes people who it was obvious they'd advanced a lot. But there was some people just I guess it's just very hard to see yourself and how you are progressing. And you think everyone else is progressing so much. And I haven't, but that's not the case there is it?
Bob Ferguson 9:00
No. One of the best bits of advice I can give is record everything. So I have a digital voice recorder, a small Olympus one that I slide in my pocket with a lapel mic. But nowadays, they're available free voice recorders are on your phone if you put your phone down when you speak. And if you record everything you do, your right people do ignore the progress they've made because some of the thinking that they were doing at the beginning is still there in the back of their mind. However, if you go back and listen to your first speeches, and then listen to your last speeches, you'll see immediately how much you've progressed and how much more in command you are. How effortless the content is coming out.
Tony Winyard 9:46
Bob Ferguson 9:47
So that that's a really helpful way to do that.
Tony Winyard 9:54
You've obviously seen, hundreds of people join the different Toastmaster clubs that you've been a member of, and so I guess the most people when they first come, maybe confidence, is really the thing that they're struggling with. What do you think is the best approach for people when they first go along maybe?
Bob Ferguson 10:19
I think that there are a whole series of roles that happen within a Toastmasters meeting. So yes, there are speakers, the people who are doing prepared speeches and standing up and delivering, but also, there's some much shorter one. So there's some roles as timekeeper for instance, where you just have to stand up and read out the times of the people who have been speaking because everything gets timed in Toastmasters, one of the really important disciplines as a professional speaker, but as any form of speaker is to stick to time. And so we're always recording how long people have taken against their objectives, and feeding that back. And that's a really simple job for people to do to stand up and just live, give out the list of times and then sit down. So there are some gentle jobs you can do if you like just to get that exposure of standing up speaking in front of the audience and sitting down in a fairly easy way. There are some short speeches, but the short speeches are probably not any easier than the longer speeches that are prepared, because those are the table topics. And that's where somebody gives you a subject, and you have to stand up straight away and talk for one to two minutes on that subject. But again, it's just an experience, once you've done it for a while, your brain starts to organise your thoughts when you hear the subject, and then you're able to talk and these are great skills for people in the workplace. Because that's the sort of skill you would use if you're in a meeting and somebody suddenly puts you on the spot and says, so what's your opinion on this? And, and being able to think of a coherent answer that's well structured, and has a balance of answers in it is a powerful skill, and seven, so they can build up to doing their first prepared speech, their first prepared speech is shorter, it tends to be four to six minutes, whereas all the others are five to seven minutes. And I think probably the other thing that helps people is that the atmosphere in the club is incredibly supportive. So that although everyone gets feedback, and it should be a well structured feedback, so that it gives them tip tips to improve and move forward. It's a supportive level of feedback, so that there's no criticism in there. There's no what you've done wrong. It's how about trying this in the future that will help you. So you're getting positive tips all the time. And I think that supportive atmosphere, and certainly when we were having physical meetings, because of course, now we're in the world of zoom more than anything, but when we're having physical meetings, if you were an evaluator of somebody doing their first speech, which was called the icebreaker, you would speak to them beforehand and say, Look, just get started, just do what you can. And then we'll pick through what you've done and pick the obvious areas for you to start polishing. So that atmosphere really helped.
Tony Winyard 13:31
The first Toastmasters meeting I went to, I can remember it clearly. It was a club called Athenians, in Hammersmith. And when I walked in, I was astounded by the the level of speaking of so many people there, but I think the thing that really hit me was, you were just talking about the feedback. And when I first heard feedback, and in the Toastmasters world it's called evaluation. Your speech is evaluated by someone called an evaluator. And I remember when I heard the level of evaluation; but it wasn't just simply that they were giving the speaker recommendations, suggestions and how they could improve, but also they were telling them, you were really good at this. And this is something that I really loved about your speech... because sometimes we don't realise what we're doing well, and by having that guy, saying, that was superb what you did there, and have you maybe thought about doing this? It was that combination of those things where I really thought that was so good. That was one of the things that made me think Yeah, I definitely need to join.
Bob Ferguson 14:39
Yeah, though the evaluation is is critical. And of course, the evaluation doesn't just benefit the speaker, because the evaluation speech is to the whole audience. So whilst you're saying to a speaker, Yes, you did this really well. You're also saying to the audience, if this is isn't one of your strengths, this is a good technique for improving your skill. So the whole audience should benefit from a good evaluation, not just the speaker. And of course, the person who also benefits is the evaluator. Because giving good quality evaluation makes you think and understand about your communication well. And that means that your own speaking is bound to improve.
Tony Winyard 15:26
I think a lot of people join initially, because probably confidence is one of the main factors. But also, I think a number of people come simply because they want to improve their speaking maybe for a wedding speech, or to do meetings at work, or whatever it might be, but often the case is they don't realise it's not just simply their public speaking, that they improve but it's there all around communication, which is so much more than just public speaking.
Bob Ferguson 15:57
Yeah, that that's quite important, really. You're speaking in front of an audience will allow you to put your thoughts together far more coherently and structured, and that works with any size of audience. So one of the things you'll find is that when you're talking one to one with somebody, that your answers, your points are that much more coherent and structured, and making it easy for people to take on board. And the other thing that happens is it starts to invade your written communication skills as well, because I can remember writing a letter to somebody who's actually left the club, he was a great contributor. And he decided to retire, which I was very sad, but I understood his reasons. And I wrote him a letter, just like you said, to highlight what he done, the contribution he'd made to the club. And normally I sort of sanity get the sanity read by my wife's because she's got an independent view. And when she looked at it, she said, Yes, she said, it actually looks like a speech with dear Derrick at the top. And it had the same structure that I'd use for a speech to put together something I put together in the letter. So all these skills are interconnected. And in fact, for speaking, I study a lot of writing good, good writers, people like Malcolm Gladwell in on the masterclass series, the whole series of writers writing for fiction, because it helps add elements to your speaking, the more you learn from other people, the more you think about your own speaking.
Tony Winyard 17:43
And I remember actually, when when I first joined Toastmasters, my daughter was only about about a year old or so. And obviously, with young children, they want a story read every night. And the difference it made in my storytelling ability was immense. I was able to, really get her excited with some of the stories I was telling, because I was just such a such a better storyteller from the whole process of going through Toastmasters.
Bob Ferguson 18:18
Yeah, I think one of the interesting things that you learn when you're speaking is that dialogue is a very powerful mechanism for putting over points. So rather than everything being in a narrative, he shared, he said, she said, I said, etc, putting in characterization, and a voice, and making that dialogue really works adds impact for your speaking. And when you read to children, that's exactly what they need that dialogue and the characterization. So and it works. Well. People think that it's a bit amateur dramatics, when you do it in a speech, and for sure, it can be people can go over the top, but it does add a level of interest and now that we're on zoom, rather than in the physical meetings, what you really need is variety to keep people engaged and vocal variety is one of the few tools you've got left because your body language is minimised generally, by the fact that you're only on a screen, but minimised again, because quite often you'll be in one of those little boxes that you get on zoom. Yeah, your vocal variety is the one tool that you've got that will give you great impact when you're speaking. Mm hmm.
Tony Winyard 19:40
You mentioned before about another benefit from going to somewhere like Toastmasters is leadership. So could you tell people more about that?
Bob Ferguson 19:50
Yeah, at speakers clubs, but Toastmasters especially, they've got an integrated programme of leadership and it's very useful. For young people, particularly who come into the Toastmasters organisation, because they're caught in this trap at work, they don't get promotion to be a leader, even a first line manager their first step on the run. And they can't make it because they've got no experience. And they can't get experienced because they can't get the promotion. So they get caught in this cyclical trap that prevents them moving forward in their career. Within Toastmasters, the whole organisation is self run, it has guidelines from World Headquarters in America. But every club is independent and run by the members. So you have a number of roles in there, you will have a president, you will have somebody in charge of membership, someone in charge of the education programme, someone in charge of the PR. and allowing people to take responsibility for those areas, allows them to develop leadership skills within the Toastmasters organisation. And then at least when the opportunity comes at work, they will be able to say, Well, I'm not without experience. I've run this in a Toastmasters club and this, and they can show their experience. But in my opinion, more likely, what happens is as they learn the leadership skills within the Toastmasters organisation, they start to exhibit those in the workplace. And then they'll stand out as perhaps a more natural choice for promotion, because they're already exhibiting the skills that people want.
Tony Winyard 21:34
Oh, and on on that subject line, you mentioned when you first joined; being an engineer, and you needed to speak better, how did it help you in your business?
Bob Ferguson 21:44
In my engineering business, you mean or or my business in total?
Tony Winyard 21:49
Bob Ferguson 21:51
well, I've had in my life, I've had two fantastic careers, and plan neither actually they, they've evolved. And I got into engineering, a purely by happenstance, when I was very young. And it just grew. And it is a fantastic career. In the last 20 years I spent in the space industry, largely working on programmes that are going to mercury once on its way to mercury now. And the next ExoMars, rover, both European programme, so I had really interesting technical career. But I've found that by being able to structure and deliver my information concisely and clearly that people would listen to you more readily. Then I sort of remember the day that it happened when I walked into the meeting, and I was set at the back. And people were talking, and they're arguing. And suddenly I made my point. And everyone in the room stopped and turned and looked at me. And later on it became a source of some anger, in a jocular way, I think, with a fellow colleague, who said, why is it that when you speak, everyone stops and listens, and when I speak, they just carry on. So I think the confidence you get is boosted by learning to speak. But the way you speak the way you craft your sentences and think about what you're going to say before you say it. And when it comes out, it's clear and everyone gets the point has a big impact on your career. It certainly had on my engineering career, it means you tend to end up with more responsibility naturally, because you come over as a person who can take the responsibility. But But then, as a byproduct of that, because I was involved in the competitions in Toastmasters successfully, people would come to me for advice. And in the workplace, there were different sorts of advice. A lot of the time it was engineers trying to pitch for funding for r&d, that sort of thing. And they were pretty woeful at it. They would try to deluge the board with PowerPoint and facts. But it went to events such as people leaving leaving dues, this farewell speech for somebody leaving the company. And I think when you've got somebody who's given often in engineering people stay a long time and people might be leaving with 40 years of effort in the organisation. The one thing you have to do in your farewell speech is make them feel good. You have to make them feel that that work was valuable. And then people have enjoyed working with them and along the way, there's been some really good times and always an opportunity to poke a little bit of fun at some of the things they've done. And it makes the event go so much better than that dry biogrid biography that is often read out and then it's there. Thanks very much goodbye. So yeah, there was a wide range within the organisation but then outside the organisation or Got to helping people with their speaking in public and that side grew and grew again, as I said, I'm planned. But after I'd finished the work on the Mars Rover, I thought, well, I really enjoy the speaking side, I want to do it full time. And if I don't do it now, I never will. So I launched out into my own coaching career. And again, that's grown, because it started off, focus very much on the speaking side. But now I spend probably equal amounts of time talking to people about the communication within their organisation, because sometimes it's the culture that's at fault, more than just the individuals.
Tony Winyard 25:43
So typically, what kind of people are coming to you for help for your coaching
Bob Ferguson 25:48
are not one to one basis, that would be people who have to make important presentations that generally senior people, but in terms of organisations, a lot of my clients are technical organisations, big technical organisations. And they have these very bright people who are down at the bottom of the organisation. So they've got stacks of ideas, and they've got a lot to offer in the valuable information they've got. But the people at the top don't get to hear about it. And don't get to understand what the risks are. And so there's this disconnect between the top and the bottom of the organisation. So in communication skills, I spend a lot more time sorting out systems that will enable people at the bottom to communicate their ideas up to the top and help the people at the top to understand the implications of the decisions they're making.
Tony Winyard 26:44
When did that start?
Bob Ferguson 26:47
2016 that started full time.
Tony Winyard 26:53
You're not doing the the engineering stuff anymore? Do you enjoy doing the coaching?
Bob Ferguson 27:00
Oh, yes, I love doing the coaching, I find that dealing with organisations is generally a bigger challenge. Because there are so many aspects to the communication within a complex organisation. And especially when you've got technical experts, they're each with their speciality. But the one to one coaching is very rewarding, because you get to see people achieve results after you finished, that they didn't think they were capable of when they came to you. Um, quite a bit of that is in crafting their material. Yeah, once the material is right, then people can stand up and deliver it with confidence.
Tony Winyard 27:41
And it can make such a difference with a well structured speech, I remember when you helped me with one of my talks. You've got a great way of breaking it down to make it much easier for people.
Bob Ferguson 27:52
Yeah. I think if people write a speech in its entirety, which has a value because you can edit it. But the trouble is, they try to remember all that information. And if you do that, then you construct in your mind, a solid chain of text. And the problem comes if you forget what you're going to say you break the chain of text, and it's very hard to pick it up again. So they they end up floundering. It's far better that once you've got the full text of your speech to start breaking it down into key paragraphs with just a phrase against each, so that you know what you're going to say. And I think people speakers have to remember, if what comes out of your mouth isn't what you've planned. You're the only one in the room who knows that? Yeah. Everyone else is just listening to what you say. You're the only one who knows that you've drifted from what you originally planned. And if you don't tell them, then they'll never know. Yeah. So you have to allow yourself licence to be a little bit creative when you're speaking. Think about the key point that you want to make in any particular block of information and make that and you'll find that if you've practised enough, it will come out reasonably the same and close enough for sure.
Tony Winyard 29:19
You mentioned about competitions and how you've done so well in competitions. That's an understatement, because you've actually represented the UK a couple of times in Toastmasters competition. So do you want to tell for anyone listening who's got no familiarity with Toastmasters at all about the competitions?
Bob Ferguson 29:39
Yeah, the competitions are, in my opinion, the greatest accelerator of your competence as a speaker because they put pressure on in a completely different way. If you start and you go through the programme, you'll find after perhaps Six months, you're feeling reasonably comfortable in front of an audience, perhaps given another six months, your structure will be reasonable won't be as good as it could be, but it will be reasonable. So that means within a year, you'll think, well, I can stand here, I can deliver a decent speech. And that's all right. And the problem is, if you stop there, which, as you mentioned earlier, quite a lot of people do stop there, because they think that's the end of the path. But they have an awful lot more to give. But the problem is, if you can write a decent speech and deliver a decent speech, there's no pressure on you to do anything different. And so people will turn up, deliver the speech they can, and go home, you don't do that in a competition in the competition, nobody wants to lose. And so the effort you put in is that much greater. And I guess you learn from the competition's, you learn more from losing than you do from winning, we generally learn very little from winning, it's great. Winning is absolutely fantastic. And that you don't learn a huge amount. But when you don't, when you go back to the drawing board, and you think why was this speech better than mine. And so it adds another level of intensity and exploring what you're going to say the next time you're in the competition. And for sure, there is there is some decent pressure, particularly if you get into a UK and Ireland final. And there's eight of you there and only one of us coming away with the championship. And as you said, the International speech contest, after it's finished in the UK goes to America for the finals of the world public speaking championship. And that adds another level of pressure. But I think what you get out of it is that when you deliver a really good speech, especially if you win, and you look back or listen back to it, then you realise just how good you can be if you put in all the effort. Now, it might be true that you don't want to put in that amount of effort every time you speak. But just knowing that you can be that good if it's necessary, is really valuable.
Tony Winyard 32:22
There are four different contests and you get different things from each contest, if you want to tell us about that?
Bob Ferguson 32:29
Yeah, sure. So the four contests are the international speech contest, and that tends to be a more motivational style of speaking. It goes to the UK and Ireland final, then it goes to America, and the winner of the two rounds in America becomes the world champion of public speaking. But there are three other disciplines as well. I talked earlier about table topics. And that's the art of impromptu speaking. Again, very powerful in a workplace if you get put on the spot. So that's a valuable one to do. The humorous speech contest. Adding humour, is a wonderful thing to be able to do in speaking, if you listen to professional speakers, most of them will tell you that they put their most important points on the back of a laugh. Because it highlights the contrast that you get between the laugh and something serious, you're going to say. But also when the audience are laughing, then their attention is with you. Their minds are open, they're receptive. And that's the time to hit them with a really serious point because it will drive home. And in fact, I probably, as I went through the contests, I probably spent longer studying humour than anything else, because it is so valuable to be able to add humour into your speeches. In fact, I think I'm one of very few speakers to win both the international and the humorous. It's a rare combination, but it is powerful if you can get it. And the last one we talked earlier about evaluators evaluation, giving feedback. And the fourth championship is the evaluation speech. So you get one test speaker stands up and speak. And then all the evaluators get up one at a time, they don't get up actually, they're not in the room. After the evaluation after the test speech, they're all taken out. So they can't hear one another and adjust theirs. And then they're brought back in the room one at a time. And all of them evaluate the same speech. So you've got something consistent to measure them against.
Tony Winyard 34:50
You talked there about the person who got the international speech contest and then the person who wins that be whether it's in America or wherever the contest is held. is then deemed the World Championship. And I remember Darren Lacroix who's a former world champion, and he came to the UK, about five or six years ago, to do a seminar and a workshop. And, and I went along. And at the time, I think I'd only been a member for a few months, so actually, it's probably about eight years ago. And I remember one of the things that really has stayed in my mind from from his talk was, he said that when he joined Toastmasters initially, he just joined his local club. And he got a lot out of it. But one thing that he found was that he would work really hard on creating a new speech. And he was working really hard on the wording and how he was going to deliver it and trying to remember it, and actually deliver at the club. And he'd get superb feedback from both the individual evaluator who evaluated that speech, and then from everyone else in the club, who gave him tips and suggestions and so on. And then he would throw that speech away, and then start a new speech. And he said, he realised that if instead of doing it like that, which is how most people approach it, if he joined a few clubs, he ended up joining six clubs. He said, then he took that first speech, and all that great evaluation he got, and then went on to deliver that same speech at the second club, but he then implemented all of those great tips he received from the first club. So it was now a much better speech than the first time he delivered it. And then he get evaluated again at the second club. And then he repeated that process, the third club, the fourth club, and he said essentially every speech he wrote, he would deliver six times and the difference in the speech from the first time to the sixth time was tremendous. And he said, that was one of the reasons how he became the world champion, because he just went through that process with every speech he did. And I thought, wow, that makes so much sense. And I ended up joining four clubs, and was doing the same thing. And I found the same, it improved my speeches, hugely, just by doing that.
Bob Ferguson 37:15
Yeah. So that that is true for certain. And that's what professional speakers will do. professional speakers tend to have one main speech, and it's slightly customised for each different audience. But they're using the same speech all the time. And Firstly, when you write your speech, you should never throw away the material. I have an archive of all my speeches going back 18 years now. And I keep that I've got the audio tapes. So I've got an audio recording, at least occasionally, I get a video recording of it. But there's always an audio recording, plus the notes that I used at the time, plus the research I did, because if you get asked to do the same speech, again, which sometimes happens, you'll find people hear you and say, Would you come and do that for my organisation? Then you can go back into your notes to help you customise it for another, another speech. But there are two sorts of speakers in the world really well, there's a spectrum. But there's two ends to the spectrum. One end is the professional speaking, style. Yeah, and at the professional end, what you tend to have is very few speeches, but you go to lots of different audiences and try them out, which is the model Darren was using when he built up his skills. And that's absolutely great. And it's it does develop your speaking well. But at the other end, you've got the people I call the business speakers, and the business speakers will often have to present to the same audience. So you cannot use the same material all the time. Yeah. And you have to learn to be able to structure things and think about the audience to work out what to say, every time to the same audience. And that's what happens in the club. That's why people write their speeches in the club, because they're stuck with the same audience. And you can see that if you look at a stand up comedian, stand up comedian will write a set a new set, and then they'll have something like a 50 event tool. And when they start off, it will be quite clunky. And as they learn what the audience likes, then they'll polish it. And about two thirds of the way through, then they'll video it. And that will be the DVD they put out at Christmas. But by the time they get to the end, it's all well founded and polished. And that's great if you've got lots of different audiences. But if you've got the same audience all the time, you can't use that approach.
Tony Winyard 39:52
That brings us to the PSA as well. The Professional speaking Association. Because it seems to me there's a lot of misunderstanding In the speaking world about the difference between them and some people think the two organisations; Toastmasters and PSA are in competition with each other, but but they're not at all because they have very different ways of helping people. So what would you say are the differences between them?
Bob Ferguson 40:15
Fundamentally, Toastmasters is about improving your speaking skill. If you don't like speaking in public, you want to learn to structure your speeches, well, then Toastmasters is your organisation to start with. The professional speaking association is as the name suggests, it's about people who earned their career through some form of speaking. And that can be quite broad that could be there could be a trainer, they could be a keynote speaker, but there are very few people who earn all their income just from keynote speaking. But they could be a platform speaker, they could be an industry speaker, they could use speaking without getting great financial rewards, but as a marketing technique, and that that's a very powerful thing to do in networking events. When people go to networking events, they get the opportunity to stand up in front of an audience and speak. And if you do that, well, then you attract potential clients into the first stage, which is to have a coffee and find out a bit more about your business. So the PSA, as it's called a professional speaking association is very focused on people whose career hinges around some aspect of speaking in public. And the two are very complimentary. I've stayed in Toastmasters for 25 years, and I've done that because there are a number of big benefits. For me, as much as there are for others. I still find there's always something to learn. You never know it all that you'll see somebody come up with a new techniques, or they're always things to learn. But also, when I started off, I mentioned Frank Furness, who's a top international speaker Philip Campania, who got to number two in the world. There are a lot of great speakers there, and they will help me in my development. So I feel a sense of duty in the organisation to help the new people coming through to put back into the organisation. That's the way it grows. Yeah. But also because I teach people always to write their speeches and presentation in blocks. Toastmasters is the perfect place to go and try a block. Yeah. So I can still use it as a sounding board. The first time I've written something, I can try it in front of a live audience, see how they respond? Am I getting the reaction I want? What would I change? What would I improve? And this is long before it ever gets in front of a paying audience. So it allows you to develop bit by bit and much longer speech, which might typically be 14 minutes, so but you could break it up and do it in four or five sections.
Tony Winyard 43:09
That's what people get from Toastmasters. So what about from the PSA?
Bob Ferguson 43:17
The PSA. Firstly, you get people with an enormous amount of experience within the PSA, you will find that there are people who have been in the speaking industry for 20 years, some of them longer years. And so they've seen most of these phases that happen when speaking go slack as it is now, obviously, because you've not got many physical events. The whole system is having to change people having to get good at virtual presentation. There's a people with a lot of experience in that they share the experience. So it's like a family. If you come in and you're inexperienced, you'll find there's a lot of people there who will help you and show you what they did on the way up what to focus on first. Because I can tell you, if you become a professional, then you see all these plates that need spinning at the same time. What do I do with my publicity? How do I structure my speech? How do I get in touch with the people who are going to give me work? And all these things that you need to know. But there are people who've been through the same process who will guide you and say, well look until you get this right. There's no point in worrying about this. So start here, work your way through. And it is a very supportive organisation. They're very good. We have meetings once a month. We get speakers who come in and talk about their experience in the speaking industry, we'll answer questions. And we will generally chat about what each other's businesses are doing. Because someone will always have a bright idea. Oh, yeah, I did that. Why don't you try this? So it's a wonderful organisation for sharing experience and support. And by and large, I would say if you You've got a problem. In your speaking industry, you your speaking business, you can always find somebody who knows how to solve that problem within the PSA, and you'll get none of that within the Toastmasters organisation.
Tony Winyard 45:14
And something else I love about the PSA is before I ever went to a PSA meeting, I think I had some vague idea that there was one way of going about being a professional speaker. Having attended so many different PSA meetings, you see so many different approaches to being a professional speaker, there are almost 1,000 different ways of doing it. And there's no one way of doing it.
Bob Ferguson 45:39
No, you have to do what's right for you and your clients. I think, probably the earliest thing that you're encouraged to do is to sort out who your ideal clients are. And when you know your ideal clients and how they work and how they need approaching what support they need, then your model of the speaking business starts to come out. But even if you've got a different way of doing it, you will find within that different way there are elements of commonality with other people's models. So they can still share even if their model is different to you. There are bits they can still share that will help you on your route. And if you know if, if you want to write a book, and that's quite commonly put forward as a good move within professional speaking to write a book, you might be thinking, Well, how do I go about it? How do I get it edited? What's the best platform to use to publish it? And there are people in there Firstly, there are people who will help you publish your books, there are publishers within the organisation. But there are people who have produced their books and know all these pitfalls that can help you with them.
Tony Winyard 46:52
We've been talking about, Toastmasters and the PSA and for people who are now listening and thinking, well, this sounds interesting. I might want to take this a bit further. There are Toastmasters clubs all over the country, I mean the world. How many clubs are there?
Bob Ferguson 47:15
Tony Winyard 47:19
In the UK almost, I would say wherever you live, and probably every country, not just the UK. But certainly in the UK. wherever you live, there's probably a club within half an hour of you, I would have thought
Bob Ferguson 47:31
I would have thought so the easiest thing is to go on to the Toastmasters website, which is www.toastmasters.org. And if you have a look on there, you'll find clubs listed there's a page called "find a club", and then you put in your location. And it will come up with all the clubs around you on a map. So it's very easy to find out which clubs are around you. And also you you want more than one club around you. Because all the clubs will meet on the same nights of each month. Well that might night might not be convenient for you. So it might be better to travel a little bit further to go to a club that meets on a convenient night for you
Tony Winyard 48:13
Yeah, because there's clubs on Mondays Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays. Whatever night is convenient for you. I used to tell people, when I was at some of the clubs that I was at, I would often tell people, don't join the first club that you go to, look at three different clubs and see which which personality; because every Club's got a different personality, and which one you just feel most comfortable at.
Bob Ferguson 48:36
Yeah. And I think even though they all follow the same plan, they have slightly different focus on what they do. And of course, the focus has changed now because one of the things that we're very actively doing is changing the whole structure of our meeting, to sit in with zoom, because you can't do on zoom, what we used to do on a physical meeting, yeah, the audience will disengage, because that's the nature of the beast. So we've had to find a way to restructure our meetings to make sure that people are engaged and involved right the way through the meeting. And for anyone who is forced because of work, to spend hours on zoom meetings, this is a great place to come to learn how to do it, so that you can engage people on a regular basis. Yeah,
Tony Winyard 49:28
There's a lot of people whose presentations on zoom leave a lot to be desired to say the least in so many different ways and apart from anything else. One of the things is the the way people use slides, and having tonnes of text on every slide.
Bob Ferguson 49:48
Slide use often tends to be poor PowerPoint is a poor primary communicator. And really it's best kept for diagrams and pictures, things that you want to If you're putting text on your slides, and you're talking, then that's not generally a good combination. So I leads, I think, to what's called cognitive overload. That means because people are trying to follow the slides and your talk at two different paces, it just overloads the brain, and generally they give up.
Tony Winyard 50:21
And they start thinking about what's for dinner... And we mentioned just then about how there's Toastmasters clubs all around the world. And the same for the PSA, branches or regions, all around the UK, but in the same thing, there's, for people who are listening to this in the States, the the equivalent is the NSA, and then there's equivalent organisations in every country.
Bob Ferguson 50:48
Yeah, that's right. It is, there is an International Federation of speakers. I'm not sure if that's the correct title. But it's, it's something very similar. And that spread worldwide, because they're ones in South Africa, America, all the countries, Canada's got a very big one. That's called CAPS. And if you if you go to a certain country, if you type in their Speakers Association, they'll connect you with organisations in that country.
Tony Winyard 51:24
And in some ways, if some people listening, who are maybe already say Toastmasters and have been for years. And they've really improved their communication and their their speaking skills. And they are thinking, "I wonder if I could make some money from this in some capacity?" By going to somewhere like the PSA, as you mentioned before, you just get so many people lend a hand to help new people who come along to PSA meetings, it's a great way of finding out if maybe you can earn some money from it.
Bob Ferguson 52:00
Yeah, the, the size of the pyramid in speaking are fairly steep. So people shouldn't be sucked in by the money that they see top celebrities and speakers make. Because the those top, certainly the speakers, if they're not celebrities, if they're celebrities, they get attracted to that fairly naturally, because many people want to hear their story. But if you're not a celebrity, the audience needs a good reason to come and listen to you. And the organisers need a good reason to pay you. And until you've established that, you're unlikely to be very successful as a professional speaker, I think the best thing you get out of the professional speaking association is rather than being pointed to where you can make money, they were the people who will help you improve your talk so that it becomes marketable. And once you're speaking model, your speaker business model is profitable, then you'll start to make money. But until then, it's a lot of hard work. And people think that if they're a confident speaker, just standing up and speaking, we'll do it. But there's a lot of work goes into professional speaking, particularly Now again, in the digital age that we're having to speak, people speak on zoom on team and Microsoft Teams, on Cisco, the WebEx system, there's all these systems springing up. And every organisation will want you to speak on their system are their platform. And you've got to be familiar with that. You've got to know how to work with the system and how to be able to show and share your screen and pull in and out of that quite fluently. And they'll still expect the same quality that they would have got if you're on the stage and all that was being done by big tech group behind the screen. So, you know, I wouldn't like people to think, Oh, yes, speakers earn good money. The Peet speakers who earn good money, earn good money, because they're good that your first stage is to be good, and to be marketable. And then you can start to think about whether this is a career for you.
Tony Winyard 54:23
The actual word or phrase 'Toastmasters'. Do you do know the origin of the phrase?
Bob Ferguson 54:30
it's an American title. The Toastmaster was the person who stood up after the dinner, gave a speech and then made a toast. But of course in this country, we more regularly associate Toastmasters with the red coated master of ceremonies, who preside over events. And in this country ever since I started 25 years ago, there's been this argument should we stay with Toastmasters as a name or should we change For the UK, but the reality is that Toastmasters International is a global brand. And we stick with it. Because once people understand what it stands for, and what it can deliver, and they go to the Toastmasters International website, then they understand it all. And there's no further explanation necessary. And then you get the benefit that goes with being part of a big brand.
Tony Winyard 55:27
Well, Bob, if people want to find out more about you and your coaching and that they can maybe get some help from you Where would be the best place to go?
Bob Ferguson 55:36
If they look on my website, www.BobFerguson.co.uk then they can find details of what I do. The easiest way to get in touch is just to drop me an email and and tell me what they're considering. And then we can have a cup of coffee, virtual cup of coffee Now today's virtual cup of coffee and just see if I can help them.
Tony Winyard 56:01
Is there a book that you often recommend to people?
Bob Ferguson 56:05
Yeah. The book that I think if you want to improve your speaking to me the most was 'World Class Speaking' by Craig Valentine.
Tony Winyard 56:22
Didn't you have some coaching from him?
Bob Ferguson 56:24
Yeah, I, I did the certified world class speaker coach course with Craig, which means you get three months working with him. But before I did that, I spent a month going through the book bit by bit and writing my notes as I like love to do. And yet it's called World Class speaking the Ultimate Guide to presenting marketing and profiting like a champion.
Tony Winyard 56:51
Because he was a world champion speaker, wasn't he?
Bob Ferguson 56:53
He was in 1999. I think Craig was world champion.
Tony Winyard 56:59
Yeah, I remember I heard him when he came to the UK and you mentioned before about the use of humour, he was superb in the way he uses humour.
Bob Ferguson 57:09
Yeah, him and Ed Tate, I think were probably the two speakers. Ed Tate was also a world champion. They were the two speakers who convinced me more than anything, that humour was an essential skill that I should work on to build. But the book about World Class speaking, is not only by Craig, it's also by a chap called Mitch Mohsen, who was an expert in internet sales. And so between the pair of them, what they've come up with is a book that gives you loads of information about improving your speaking, but also talks about the realities of having to make a speaking business, and how you use the internet for people to contact you, and what should be on your web pages, and any of your contact people and all the rest of it. So I find it, it's a really good book, because a it will help you improve your speaking enormously, but be if you do start to consider whether there's a career in this for you. You've got lots of information there that will help you understand what's necessary before you take the step.
Tony Winyard 58:20
And finally, Bob, do you have a quotation that you particularly like?
Bob Ferguson 58:28
Do I have a quotation I particularly like?... I do have lots of quotations. But I think, you know, one of the things you'll find is that as you go around, and this is a Craig Valentine quotation, that there will always be people who don't value what you do, for some reason. You'll be too slick, too rough, too funny, too unfunny whatever it is, there'll be people in your audience who don't like what you do. And and the phrase that Craig uses that helps people get over that is that wherever you go, you will be too something for somebody. Just be too good for it to matter. I think it is, I think it's brilliant. And I can tell you as a speaker, if you were an audience of 100 people, and you look at the feedback, and there's 99 great bits of feedback on one that says you were pants I didn't like you, guess which one people go home thinking about? The speaker goes down thinking about exactly. And this is a great phrase to just let you understand you won't hit everyone spot on every time. But if you're good, that won't matter.
Tony Winyard 59:47
And actually, it applies to so much more. It applies to life in general, not just speaking,
Bob Ferguson 59:52
yeah, you're right.
Tony Winyard 59:54
Because there's so many authors will focus so much on that one bad review, they get and ignore all the great reviews and in every other walk of life as well.
Bob Ferguson 1:00:02
I think the reason it's valuable is because Craig worked his way through to become a world champion. And then he realised to step up he had to make to be a good platform and keynote speaker. And he's had all these setbacks and he knows what it takes to get over them.
Tony Winyard 1:00:21
Yeah, absolutely. Well, Bob, I really appreciate appreciate your time. It's been, it's been fun. It's been fantastic. And hopefully, everyone listening will realise the value they can get from joining an organisation like Toastmasters International or the PSA, or any speaking organisation.
Bob Ferguson 1:00:40
Yeah, there is great value. And apart from anything else, this can be a lonely business. So be belonging to something like the PSA or Toastmasters gives you a family to belong to. And people that you can go along and chat to about any issues you've got in what you're doing.
Tony Winyard 1:00:59
You just reminded me a point that we've completely glossed over or didn't touch upon, is the mentorship or value that you get from from the organisations as well?
Bob Ferguson 1:01:10
Yeah. I don't know the PSA might have a formal system, I'm sure there's mentorship available, they certainly have mastermind groups of people who get together, but Toastmasters definitely, as a formal mentorship scheme, where if you go in there, you can watch all the other speakers before and you can think, Oh, you know, I'd like some coaching from this person, because they have a style that I enjoy and think that would be useful for me. And then they will be assigned as a mentor for you. And I have mentees and we get in touch on a regular basis. And I help them develop their speeches. So yeah, it has a very well built in mentoring scheme.
Tony Winyard 1:01:52
Well, Bob, thank you for your time. It's been it's been fantastic. Thank you.
Bob Ferguson 1:01:55
It's a pleasure, Tony. Nice to speak to you again.
Tony Winyard 1:02:00
Next week is Episode 17. And I'll be speaking with Duncan Bhaskaran Brown who is an award winning speaker, an author and a Morris dancer! He's helped hundreds of people across the world to get over indulgence, and to wake up to a better tomorrow. He's spoken at many events in quite a few different sectors from health care, local government, emergency services and world class universities. And he helps people get free from unruly urges, whether that be food, drink, drugs, social media, Netflix, whatever. So that's next week's episode with Duncan Bhaskaran Brown. If you know anyone who you think would really get some value from some of the wisdom that was shared by Bob Ferguson, please do share the episode with them. Go online leave a review for us. That's really helpful. It gets more people to find out about the podcast, and maybe subscribe while you're there. So you get the latest edition every week when it's published on Tuesday lunchtimes. Hope you did enjoy this week's show and hope you have a great week. See you next week.
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