Category Archives: Sales & Persuasion

Five Important Things You Must have to SHINE on Stage

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 5 seconds. Contains 819 words

If you’re wondering about the key qualities great speakers share, look no further.

Having spent over the last 10 years on stage, I’ve had the privilege of speaking to thousands of people over the years, via different mediums, at different functions and events… and taking notes on what worked and what didn’t. Continue reading Five Important Things You Must have to SHINE on Stage

Misses and Hits: Lessons from Singapore’s YPAP Video

Editors Note:
This post is written entirely for learning purposes. Any sarcasm and cynical comments found herein are included for entertainment purposes, and not meant to offend.

[C’mon… give me a break I head to go through the video 5 times!]

Click here to launch the video


[5 minutes 46 seconds, if you average 3 words per second]

ypap pic



By now, if you live in Singapore, or have friends who are Singaporeans – you would have heard about the latest video controversy making its round on the internet.

I was asked by a local news paper, The New Paper to give my views on the video and the reasons for the reception it received.

Here’s my take on the misses and hits, and what we can learn from it.


1) Robotic “Personalities” 

Go through the first 40 seconds of the video, and you’ll see bodies people largely standing still. Even for people who speak, their gestures and mannerisms appear largely controlled.

Having worked in front of the camera, I’m aware of the need to minimize distracting mannerisms.

Unfortunately, minimizing mannerisms in this case has swung to the other extreme, causing a number of people in the video to appear contrived and “emotionless”.

What really stood out for me, is how one person, apart from his/her voice, speaks and sounds almost the same as the other person – how’s that for personality and personalization? 

What could’ve been better: Variation in tone, pace and hand gestures would’ve broken the seeming monotony of “robotic personalities”. They key is to present one’s personality and energy.  


2) Synchronized Movement: An Irony of  Preparation

This is probably a sad irony of preparation. Where an audience demands sincerity and connection with the people who may eventually be their leaders, synchronized gestures throughout the video (ie, at 0:26s) suggests a rehearsed attempt and hardly suggests that actions from the activists (pardon the pun) “came from the bottom of the heart”.

Even the following segment by the West Coast Region YP, an apparent attempt at presenting a united front – backfired, when the actions appeared overly orchestrated.

Tanjong Pagar Region YP (3:44) upped the ante with their segment with an even more uniformed recital of what they wanted to say and with their eyes all over the place except the camera.

Eyes at the camera, please?
Eyes at the camera, please?

What could’ve been better:  Have close ups of individual activists from within the group, present shortened, specific segments. So everybody gets air time, but there’s less “group” coordination required for the recital.

It’s also perfectly fine to look at the camera to simulate eye contact with the audience.

By the way, having one’s eyes moving systematically, from left to right gives people the perception that you’re reading off a script/teleprompter and not speaking from the heart… so doing that is also highly discouraged.

ypap pic 2

It’s hard to convince people that you truly believe in and care for something, when the delivery appears to be devoid of emotion, scripted and prepared.


3) Language: Can you Connect with the Common Man?

I noted a couple of instances, when the words used by the presenters weren’t naturally relatable to or immediately understandable by the man on the street.

In short, we don’t use them as part of of our daily conversations.

Take for example the segment presented by Holland-Bukit Timah Region, where it was said, “We must continue to be responsive to the ever-changing social, political and economic environment, by distributing resources in a caring manner, and balancing  market forces and government intervention for Singaporeans to better cope with living expenses.

That’s a lot of big words there.

Instead of that, how about, “We must continue to be sensitive to the needs of Singaporeans – by sharing with them the fruits of the country’s labour and help them with the costs and challenges of living.
(I don’t like the word “challenging” here… but hey, I came this at the top of my head and it’s still better than the original version, no?)

Then there are  terms that even I find confusing… such as East Coast Region YP’s “Diversity in Social Mindset” – I understood the explanation that came after the term… but I did find myself scratching my head wondering why that can’t be replaced with the phrase “Having more members from more diverse backgrounds” (… other than doctors, lawyers, etc).

If only the other YP branches heeded the advice of Choa Chu Kang Region YP, who called for communication to be simple, concise and easy to understand…



Okay, now that I’m done with the misses… let’s consider the hits.

Content: Pretty sound there – there’re no surprises here. Every thing is spic and span and no controversy erupted over a message that could’ve been misconstrued etc. At least the PAP doesn’t have to be embarrassed by a message.

Party Discipline: Say what you like, the teams still pulled together to deliver a consistent message/direction is still commendable. Achieving that by itself is a feat, considering the massive machinery that is the PAP.

A for Effort and Putting Yourself Out There: Trying to be ‘natural’ and coordinated… you’ve got to say, the people tried and they’re really NOT actors!

It would be great if the speakers could achieve the level of unconscious competency in the area of public speaking, communication and connecting with their audience.

Hey guys… just in case you’re wondering where you can learn that, I know of a coach who does a great job at helping people with that! *winks*



To be fair, I truly believe getting the different branches to send in a “proper” video for compilation is a mammoth task.

The PAP, known more for its discipline accuracy (think engineers and lawyers) and assuming the role of the ruling party would naturally place greater emphasis on the content of its message.

Still, try as they like, the call for people to focus on intention and the message is expected… but will very likely fall on deaf ears.

After all, people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Therefore, although I believe that there exists real concern (and passion) hidden under the cloak of nervousness and unrefined performance, the art of communication and connecting with the audience is a skill the PAP needs to work on, if they wish to really soften the blow of their (hard) policies and move the audience into believing that they know what’s best.

The Power of Storytelling: 10 Reasons Why Stories Are Such Powerful Tools

We’ve heard a lot about it. Speakers use it. Politicians love it… But Storytellers started it.

What exactly endears an audience to stories? And what makes it such a powerful communication and learning tool that has stood the test of time?

Here are 10 Reasons Why Storytelling is Such a Powerful & Effective Learning Tool.

Continue reading The Power of Storytelling: 10 Reasons Why Stories Are Such Powerful Tools

Are You an Influential Communicator?

Presentation Maestro

One of the few people that consistently come to mind, when I ask participants at my workshop who they thought was a great speaker, would be the late Steve Jobs. Make no mistake about it, hate him or love him, he did set the stages he graced alight and abuzz whenever he took to it.

Many people wondered if it was just the “Mac” factor, the undeniable success brought forth by line of sexy and elegant gadgets that Apple has come to be known for.

Or was there more?

Continue reading Are You an Influential Communicator?

Six Speaking Skills You Need For Managing a Crisis

I got the privilege of evaluating an advanced project during a meeting at Tampines Changkat Toastmasters Club this evening. The project was on “Crisis Management”. The speaker was expected chair a media conference and deliver an official statement addressing a crisis that had struck the organization that he was working for. Thereafter, he would be required to chair a question and answer session from members of the media – tough interrogators who are hungry for sound bites and hawkish for answers.

The speaker had to be on his toes and watch what he said – for any slip could further stoke the flames and potentially devastate the company further.

The speaker who attempted this project for the night, Gregory Ernoult, ACB, managed this challenge admirably. In fact, it was such an admirable attempt that it helped to surface a few pertinent points in crisis/media management and prompted me to blog about it (for you) too!

Since it’s close to 4am, and I’m too tired and lazy to think of an alternative structure to share those ideas, I shall proceed simply by sharing the three main areas Greg did particularly well in followed by the three suggestions I thought he could use to enhance his presentation and Q&A. But before we begin, we’ll have to understand the setting for his “crisis” first. Continue reading Six Speaking Skills You Need For Managing a Crisis

Speaking to Sell

Sales and Selling has often been linked with the concept of persuasion and “getting people to spend money”. The idea of selling has therefore been tinged with a dose of negativity and skepticism.

However, despite the dictionary definition of the term “selling”, and the occupation that’s associated with it, the “salesman/salesperson”, selling is a universal activity that’s not confined to the ordinary sales associate that you see at our shopping malls and shops. A closer examination of the concept of “selling” however, reveals one thing:


Consider this, when you’re making a presentation to your boss on why you should receive your promotion, aren’t you actually trying to sell him an idea? And when he rejects you, isn’t he trying to sell you another idea on why he won’t be promoting you (yet)?

How about the times when you’re trying to coax your little one to eat his/her vegetables? Or go to school? Aren’t you trying to sell him/her the benefits of (or the pain of not) eating vegetables?

What about social situations? Aren’t you trying to get people to like you when you meet someone new? Hey, what about that cute girl/guy that you meet at the party? `Nuff said!

Selling is a universal concept. Like it or not, we are all sales people in our respective fields and domains in life. Everybody is selling something everyday!

So, regardless of what you do, whether you’re a professional salesperson, a parent, a teacher, trainer, student or whoever! You’ve got to sell!

Well here are some pointers on how to sell effectively. In reverse order of importance:

3) Understand the specialties of your product/service.

How does it differentiate from the other similar products/services/ideas around?

2) Is your product competitive?

What are the advantages of using your product/service/idea?

1) How will it BENEFIT the your “customer”?

The benefits of solving the problem are fundamentally the key reasons why your “customer” is looking for something at the end of the day. Be it an idea/product/service – the “sale” should revolve around how your customer will come up tops by getting what he/she wants.

Therefore a key tip to your presentation/negotiation success would be to revolve your presentation around the benefits your “customer” would be getting!

So, what’s going to be your next big sales success?

The ‘Art’ of Sincerity

Art: [noun] a superior skill that you can learn by study and practice and observation

Sincerity: [noun] a quality of naturalness and simplicity ; the quality of being open and truthful; not deceitful or hypocritical

Sincerity is a key element in the interpersonal relationships and communication. It’s only with sincerity can one TRULY click and integrate him/herself into the world of others. Nobody likes being lied to. We all delight in the truth. No doubt a person may lie with flattery and make one happy for awhile. But sooner or latter, the hypocrisy shows and the relationship will be broken.

As the saying goes, honesty is the best policy. Honesty is the solid foundation upon which a sturdy platform is established for relationships to grow. Falsity and lies are then like floating platforms. It’s wobbly and unsteady. When put to the test, it flips and flops and lands the owner into trouble!

So then, since sincerity is so important in our successes in relationships with others, how do we learn it? Can it even be taught?

Unfortunately, to many, sincerity is an extremely abstract concept. Despite it’s simplistic definition from the dictionary, I believe many people receiving so much information from so many sources that many don’t even know what they really think and feel anymore! In fact, many don’t even know what to believe in the age where the mass media and our schools are bombarding us with so much information on how we should think and feel!

So how do we differentiate what’s real and what is not to us? In it’s simplest sense, one can begin by seeking from within. For example, consider some of the following:

What are your values and beliefs?
What are the things that are important to you?
What are the things that delight you and what upsets you? What’s the range of acceptability of standards – expectations on yourself and others?
How strongly do you believe in those standards?
Have you been following up on achieving those standards? Have you been working hard on them?

(No, don’t even think about what others think about you. The focus is on you and only on you! Recall my post on Self Love – How well we treat others are a direct reflection of how well we treat ourselves! So forget about others for awhile and concentrate on knowing yourself better!)

Remember, these are values and beliefs! Not material and physical benefits that you can enjoy, but values and beliefs that define you as a person!

For example, one my values and beliefs in life is to actively become a better person, through continuous growth, learning and understanding. I believe that there are many challenges in life that cannot be solved based on our current capabilities, and through active learning, these puts me in a better position to handle those challenges. And I believe the skills that I learned would be of value to people who’ve similar interest in bettering themselves where communication and public speaking is concerned!

What’re my values:
1) Continuous learning
2) Self Growth

What’re my beliefs?
1) Learning makes me a better person
2) I can help make a difference in other people’s lives through sharing
3) My skills are valuable etc

These are some examples of my beliefs. And now that I’m fully aware of them, I’m allowed to actively pursue them during my contacts with people! Heck, I’m even doing it now!

Sincerity is a state of being. Unfortunately, these states cannot be taught effectively with mere words – they can only be achieved through experience. But hey, I’ve already given you some insights on how to pursue it! So at least there’s a start!

Sincerity is a solid foundation. It’s the truth and cannot be defeated. Flattery, lies and hypocrisy are hollow. You can built on them. But with time they would cave in. So why go through all the trouble building an a shell/mask that wouldn’t last?

Now then, go think about what are some of the things are deeply important to YOU! Tell yourself, you’re going to actively pursue it! What are some of the things that matter to you deeply in communication and inter-personal relationships? Tell yourself, you’re going to be true!

Let everything come from the bottom of your heart and soul! Do that with tact and diplomacy, and I will guarantee you success with people!

Richard Quest: Public Speaking is a Performance

Now this marks the start of my plagiarism from Garr Reynolds!

I came across this entry relating to a conversation that Garr shared with CNN Presenter Richard Quest on the topic of Presentation skills. Now for all of you who wish to gather some tips on presentation from a top-class professional, you’re in luck!

The following’s the conversation between Garr and Richard Quest:


CNN’s Richard Quest: world traveller and presenter extraordinaire

Last week CNN’s Richard Quest was in town filming for the December episode of the CNN Business Traveller show to air in mid December. I was invited to join Richard along with a Canadian expat executive and one of his Japanese staff for the filming of an interview over lunch downtown. It was fun and a real pleasure to have lunch with Richard and swap stories (his are better). If I had any lingering illusions that the life of an international TV news anchor was all “fun and glamour” those have been completely dispelled now. What Richard does is a lot of work. The entire process of filming the lunch took about two hours, and while Richard and the CNN crew were very friendly and even funny, the filming was a very serious, focused affair.

I have admired Richard’s unique abilities as a TV presenter for years. In my book, he’s one of the best. Richard’s voice, style, and delivery does not appeal to everyone, but it appeals to me. Frankly, if no one hates your style (or your product, brand, company, etc.) then probably no one is a big fan either. There is a high price to pay for being average. In any event, I could not let this opportunity go by with out asking this world-famous presenter his tips on making a live business presentation or speech. So, during some of the breaks in filming I asked Richard what he would say to a group of business people hoping to improve their presentation skills. He was very keen to give me a thoughtful answer and went on in detail for quite some time in spite of the hectic schedule. Sure, nothing he said is necessarily new to you or me, but it means a lot to hear it coming from someone of his experience and talent. Below is a summary of some of the tips he shared with me in our conversation.

It’s a performance. Like it or not, he said, if you are giving a speech or a presentation, you are performing. Of course, people like Richard are at an advantage compared to the rest of us, he admitted, since he does this for a living. Still, it is useful for all presenters to remember that they are, for that moment when they have the floor at least, performers.

• You’ve got to grab ’em by the grapes…
Richard was adamant, animated, and colorful about this tip. Forget the thank yous and small talk at the beginning, you can work that in later he said. At the start you immediately have to grab them and bring them in. Many people he said start their presentations off weakly, meekly. Open with a bang and remember to end your talk by tying the big finish back in with that dynamic opening.

• Engage your audience. Ask questions, look them in the eye, get them involved.

• Slow down, you are in control. This is your show, your stage. Use your voice to emphasize certain crucial points. Don’t just rush through talking points, etc.

• Pay close attention to your audience. Have some empathy for your audience. If they are not getting it or if it becomes clear that you have prepared too much or the wrong material, then switch gears, cut it short, whatever the situation calls for. Good presenters can read the nonverbal cues and act accordingly.

• Tell stories, give plenty of examples. You don’t have to make 14 points. Make a single big point. Most people try to include too much information not too little.

Richard_auckland Again, this is nothing you have not heard presentation experts recommend before. Still, it was good to hear it, not from a presentations coach or consultant, but simply from someone in the field who has made quite a name for himself in broadcasting based largely on solid speaking skills, among his other talents. And in case you were wondering, yes Richard really does talk like that even over lunch when the cameras are off, although his presence and intensity increase just a notch when the cameras are rolling. I think Richard is a great guy and certainly one of the most dynamic and popular anchors on CNN. I’m honored to have had the chance to spend some time with him while he was in Osaka.


For the Full Article and access to the pictures and videos, check it out at Presentation Zen