When I published my book in 2014 I knew speaking opportunities would follow. But so much more followed including national awards, podcast interviews, and an invitation to speak at TEDxReno.

At the time, I had no idea what it meant to become an actual speaking professional. Telling your story is an experience and a gift that you deliver to your audience. But there is so much more to becoming a speaking professional than simply telling your story. The important question here is, “What’s in it for the audience?! (In retrospect this is what I learned when I spoke at TEDxReno.)

I’ve been a member of Toastmasters for nearly 4 years and it’s become my weekly ritual to become a better speaker/storyteller, adopt success styles from others, and an opportunity for greater self-awareness.

When the amazing Kelly Sergeant delivered her breakfast keynote at the final District 39 regional conference in South Lake Tahoe this past weekend, I left feeling inspired. I was not only inspired from her keynote but by her breakout session on her road to getting onto the Toastmasters World Championship stage in Malaysia.

In addition, I also sat in on District 39 Champions Panel, “Speaking to Win”.

For your next presentation, think about how you can implement some of these strategies to connect deeper with your audience and have more fun.


When your rehearsals or presentation is finished you need to ask yourself,

Did I seize my opportunity to connect with the audience?

Connection means different things to different speakers. From panel feedback, you can connect with humor, fun, and being consistent with who you are.

Speech evaluations in the Toastmasters curriculum is like the holy grail to becoming a better speaker. Each speaker is assigned an evaluator whom critiques each speech in a constructive manner. They let you know what you did well and identify potential opportunities for improvements. If your objective is to increase self-confidence, self-awareness and/or impact more people there isn’t a better platform to practice your craft than Toastmasters.

How you connect with your audience can make or break an opportunity to get your message across. Start with asking, “What is my message and how will I connect with the audience to get that message across?”


Bring your speech to life with color.

One valuable tactic I learned during the 2-month preparation of my TED talk and later by professional speaking coach, Michael Port, is blocking. What is blocking? I’m glad you asked.

After you’ve written your speech and memorized it, break it down into 2-3 minute blocks. Within each block, practice the delivery so it becomes second nature. To maximize impact you need to be polished and well-rehearsed. Kelly Sergeant takes this concept one step further and I am totally going to adopt this technique.

After you’ve written your speech, grab a few highlighters in various colors and color code each word that you can express with a hand gesture in green. Practice those gestures through your block. On the road to the World Championship, Kelly Sergeant highlighted the following words and assigned them to these gestures.

  1. HUMOR (Yellow) – Helps us remember, understand and get the point across
  2. GESTURE (Green) – Use your body, arms, and hands
  3. ORATORY (Orange) – Vocal variety
  4. PERFORM (Pink) – Tell the story like you experienced it


Storytelling from personal experience is what makes each of us unique. While this is important, the story needs to be told in a way that everyone can relate to. As I became more self-aware about the core premise about my story and how brain cancer effected me, I began to get more feedback on its relatability to the audience. And this is the question every speaker needs to answer while writing their speech…

What’s in it for the audience?

Let’s face it, surviving brain cancer isn’t a relatable topic for the majority of people. But like anything else there are lessons to be learned from personal experience. Be authentic and deliver the value of your lessons.


Speaking is a wonderful opportunity to showcase your knowledge and leadership. If you’d like an opportunity to learn what Toastmasters is about and how you and/or your team could benefit check out: https://www.toastmasters.org/membership

Better yet, you can be a guest at my Toastmasters club. Leave a comment below and let me know why becoming a better speaker would be important for you.