The International Writers Magazine: Life and Comment

Learning to Speak Pays Big Dividends
Antonio Graceffo

hey say that the single most common fear which people have is public speaking. At the same time, being able to speak effectively is the single most important business skill that you can have. Whether you work in sales, marketing, PR, auto-mechanics, or medicine, improving your public speaking will jumpstart your career. Being from an Italian family, I could also say that having a good command of English results in a lower chance of conviction and a lighter sentence.

In my case, public speaking is allowing me to transition from being an author, to being a TV, radio, and film personality. Since my main goal is selling books, the exposure I get from the big media put dollars in my pocket.
We have all heard that the best things in life are free. And in my experience, they are. Working as a martial arts and adventure author, I found that I got the best martial arts training, which resulted in the best books and stories, living in temples in Asia, where I was never asked to pay a penny. The same goes for public speaking. Most people don¡¯t know, but they can get top notch training for a few dollars a month.
Recently when I was in the USA for a seven month speaking tour, I discovered Toastmasters International, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching public speaking and leadership to adults. The annual dues vary from club to club, but for about $60 a year you can participate in their educational program, giving a series of speeches, before a live audience. Each speech is evaluated by trained club members, and you will get extremely useful feedback on how to improve your technique. Clubs meet two to four times per month, and there are thousands of clubs in the USA. If you go on you may be surprised to find there are multiple clubs within walking distance of your home or office.
Before I joined Toastmasters I already had no fear of public speaking. I had worked as a teacher for abut ten years and had a lifetime of sales experience. I had already done a slue of radio interviews and a few movies and TV shows. But the training I received from Toastmasters was priceless, and has had a major impact on the future of my career.
As a writer, I have learned that a book is the easiest piece to write, because I can ramble, unconcerned about limitations of length and word count. Magazine articles are harder, because they have strict rules about how many words can used. Newspapers are the hardest. I was once asked to write 250 words on the life of an activist I had met living in the jungles of northern Thailand among the tribes for thirteen years. He was a controversial character who had been marked for death by the Thai government, Shan State army, and Burmese warlords. How do you reduce that story to 250 words?
The timed speeches at Toastmasters forced me to learn the same economy with the spoken word which I have learned with the written word. Toastmasters speeches are generally only seven minutes, with time limits strictly enforced. Now, because of Toastmasters, when I am paid to do a 45 minute or one hour motivational speaking engagement, I simply break it into seven minute units in my head. Each seven minute unit is solid, concise, and powerful.
In addition to attracting people who need help with their public speaking techniques,
Toastmasters also attracts sales professionals, communications teachers, and radio and TV hosts. As a result, Toastmasters provides you with great networking opportunities.
While I was in USA, a number of Toastmasters friends arranged paid speaking engagements for me. One friend arrange for me to appear on a couple of talk shows. On talk shows, you speak in tight bursts, when your time comes. You never want to talk more than two minutes, and you don¡¯t want to dominate other people¡¯s talk time. A talk show is similar to a Toastmasters exercise called table topics, where members are given a topic and required to deliver a one and a half minute speech, with no preparation. I did about twenty or thirty radio interviews while I was in the States. Once again, you are forced to speak in one to three minute bursts, each of which must sound brilliant.
I met two Toastmasters members who both had their own radio show. They taught me about new media, web radio, web TV, internet audio and video techniques. Another Toastmasters taught me the importance of having audio and video clips readily accessible when applying for speaking engagements. Catherine Franz, a Toastmaster who does coaching for marketing professionals, taught me to use a digital recorder during business meetings. These raw audio clips can later be used to make CDs which could be sold as part of a marketing course. They could also be transposed into pamphlets of books which could be marketed on the internet.
Because of the press that I have received for my various adventures throughout Asia, BBC and Discovery both asked me to write proposals for a TV show I would be hosting, about martial arts in Asia. Because of my Toastmaster friends, I already had audio on my website. I also had audio and video CDs which I had recorded while giving Toastmaster speeches. I used these audio and video clips as demos, accompanying my proposal.
In the end, the major networks paid me a consulting fee, but passed on the show. Luckily, because of the lessons I learned from Toastmasters, I decided to hire a local film crew in Asia, and produce the show myself, with the help of a web radio and web TV network. Now, thanks to Toastmasters, my show, ¡°Martial Arts Odyssey will begin shooting in Cambodia in October. It will be airing on web TV, around the world, in November.
Public speaking helps me produce products like DVDs and CDs which I sell, at a profit. public speaking allows me to speak well on my book tours, and radio and TV interviews.  Public speaking gives me the ability to sell my ideas to others.
Public speaking is the cornerstone of any career. Improve your public speaking, and you will improve your income.
Checkout Antonio’s website
Get Antonio’s books at
The Monk from Brooklyn
Bikes, Boats, and Boxing Gloves
The Desert of Death on Three Wheels
© Antonio Graceffo September 2006


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