A Toastmaster Speaks In China (Part 3)

Conclusion of Interview with Darren LaCroix about his speaking trip to China.

What elements of your presentation really connected?
My facial expressions!  One thing I noticed is that they loved my energy.  That’s one thing they connected with.  I tend to be high energy and animated.  Animated delivery engaged them.  It’s an amplified form of communication.  It was like turning on a microphone.  They could hear me better.  My grammar and pronunciation may not be as perfect as someone like David Brooks, but my energy helped to make up for that.  What I lose in eloquence I gain in energy, enthusiasm and sharing of emotion.

Here’s something fascinating.  I was judging a Mandarin speech contest in Malaysia, not as an official judge but I was just filling in the judging form as I watched the contest.  And I picked the winner.  And I had no idea what he was saying.  But because of rapport, audience response, how he commanded the stage, I picked the winner. 
Compared to a regular Toastmasters presentation, what did you do differently in China? 
I found that nearly everyone in the club where I spoke was young.  And seemed that 95 percent of those attending the District Conference were under 30.  Just the opposite of here in the USA.  Many of them use it as a place to work on their English.  It’s a value-added program for communication skills.   So as the first World Champion to speak at a District Conference in mainland China, I really needed to make sure I was encouraging.  I wanted to show them where I started from. 

I did two programs.  On Friday night I did my coaching program, showing an early version of my winning speech:  Ouch!  And they told me what was the difference between the early version and the final contest version.  And Saturday, I talked about where I started and showed my Stitches comedy club clip, my first time on stage, and how really bad it was. 

I really tried to emphasize that this is a process we can all learn and that I’m just a guy who used the system of Toastmasters better than most.  So I beat myself up showing how bad I was at the beginning to be encouraging.  One of the things I always remember from Rosemary Verri, who was one of my early mentors and the one who brought me into speaking in NSA, “the problem is funny, the solution is serious.”  So I made fun of me and where I was at, to give them hope.  And then I shared the process that got me here.  So I took that very serious, but I made light of where I started.  It’s something I normally do in my programs, but in China I made sure I emphasized it more than I usually do.  I wanted to show them that anyone can learn these skills if they commit to it.  Anyone can learn to be funny if they are willing to make some mistakes.  And realize that there’s really no one night or one speech that defines you.  Even the best bomb.  Even the best need to get over it.  So my normal program might be 20 percent Hope, my program in China was 40 percent Hope.

Thank you Darren for sharing highlights and insights from your speaking trip to China.  It sounds like you had a great time and a fun adventure.  We can all learn from your experience. 

 Part One  —  Part Two