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Episode 7: The A-Ha! Method Podcast

Going Beyond Public Speaking with Jeremy Au

In this episode of The A-Ha! Method Podcast, we have special guest Jeremy Au join us to talk about public speaking. Jeremy goes beyond the traditional discussion about public speaking and expands on many creative elements and uses of public speaking through storytelling, improv, and even stand-up comedy.

Jeremy initially did not like public speaking as a kid and even shares an embarrassing story from middle school that haunted him for years. Then he grew to love it in college and finds himself using public speaking skills every day.

He has given many start-up pitches and presentations and watched many business pitches as an investor and venture capitalist (VC), and he provides some insightful tips for new founders getting started with their pitches. Jeremy shares his love for storytelling and using storytelling techniques to evoke emotions from your audience. He also discusses his improv journey and how it has helped him along the way. 

Ways to listen to The A-Ha! Method Podcast:

More About Our Guest Jeremy Au:

Jeremy Au (区汉辉) is a VC at Monk’s Hill Ventures who invests in fellow founders who will transform millions of lives. He also spearheads MHV’s key initiatives from venture scouts to thought leadership. Jeremy hosts the BRAVE podcast and interviews trailblazing founders, investors and rising stars in Southeast Asia tech. His mission is to inspire thousands to build the future, learn from our past and stay human in between. He is also an angel investor in multiple startups across USA and Southeast Asia. 

Jeremy cofounded CozyKin, an early education marketplace. He led the startup as CEO from 0 to Series A to acquisition by Higher Ground Education. Won Harvard Business School’s New Venture Competition and the MassChallenge grand prize. Incubated by Harvard Innovation Lab’s VIP Program and MIT Sandbox. Jeremy cofounded Conjunct Consulting, an impact consulting platform, and bootstrapped the social enterprise to profitability, over a hundred clients and thousands of trained impact leaders. He consulted across multiple Southeast Asia markets and China as a Bain management consultant. He also served as an infantry sergeant in Singapore.

Jeremy is a public speaker and panelist on entrepreneurship, leadership and community engagement. He has spoken for thousands across Harvard, Deutsche Bank, Singapore Global Tech Network, Boston SPARK Council, Institute of Policy Studies, Civil Service College and many others. Recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30 and Prestige 40 Under 40. MBA from Harvard Business School and double honor degrees in Economics & Business Administration from UC Berkeley. 

Jeremy enjoys science fiction, improv, hiking, tea and being a dad with his family. He enjoys hearing from authentic founders, receiving podcast guest recommendations and new speaking opportunities.

Follow Jeremy on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.

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Boosting Your Confidence Building Confidence Improving Your Presentations Public Speaking Goals Public Speaking Tips

Public Speaking Goals Restart

We are halfway through 2021 now. How are you doing with your 2021 personal and professional goals? What about your public speaking goals?
Could you use a mid-year goals restart? Time to check-in and see what you can still accomplish in the second half of the year!

I may not be a trend setter (yet), but I am absolutely a goal setter. I am very big into setting personal and professional goals, and I talk about this A LOT on The A-Ha! Method Podcast. Sometimes I am more talk than action though. 😞

I am constantly trying to improve myself, my routine, my skills, etc., which can be a blessing and a curse—blessing because I am all about self improvement, curse because it can become a bit like striving for perfection, which is an unattainable goal…even for me.

In the past few years, I have started making year-long mantras instead of goals. The mantras give me a simple, easy to remember phrase that I can repeat to myself when times are tough. My friend Susan, who I talk about in Podcast Episode 6, also makes yearly mantras with me, and we just so happened to have the same mantra this year—”I Am Here.”

We had different reasons for this mantra, but it’s still fun that we had the same one for the same year. My “I am Here” mantra has two meanings:

  1. I tend to have a lot of imposter syndrome, and 2021 has pushed me out of my comfort zone a good bit so far. The “I am Here” saying reminds me that I am supposed to be at this meeting, give this presentation, talk about this subject, etc. Whether I feel ready or not, I am here, and I am going to do the best I can.
  2. I have taken on the unfortunate habit of multi-tasking—both at work and in my personal life. I want to be more present in life with my family and friends and not be on my phone all the time. I am here, I am focused, I am listening!
Picture of my 2021 Mantra Board that my friend Susan made me. Yes, we are in our 30’s and 40’s, and yes, I love every aspect of this special board!

So far, I have done okay with my 2021 mantra. I still want to be more present in everything I do, but that will take some time and more dedication. I have put myself out there more, and I am learning to be confident and continue to grow and learn from my mistakes. I will continue to work on this “I am Here” mantra, but now I also have some public speaking goals I want to add to the mix as well.


In the spirit of Quarter 3 just starting and us reaching the halfway mark in the year, I want to encourage you to sit down and review how you are doing with your goals so far. If things are going well, keep going and growing and glowing (this was my 2020 mantra)! If things could be improved, let’s do a mid-year goals restart and see if we can finish this year stronger physically and mentally than how we started. And if you don’t have any public speaking goals on your list yet, maybe it’s a good time to add some as well.

Here are my 3 public speaking goals/mantras for the second half of 2021 (I am putting it out on the internet, so no going back now!):  

  1. Quality over quantity
    • I have mentioned this on the A-Ha! Method Podcast and in other articles, but I really want this to be my big focus for the rest of this year. I want to work on crafting and developing my stories instead of just throwing out a bunch of stories and never telling them again. 
    • I set the goal to give 30 speeches this year, but I don’t have to give 30 different speeches. I would like to challenge myself by giving one speech topic five different times and truly experience the iterative and editing process. I’ll let you know how that goes. 
  1. Keep it simple
    • I have a tendency to overcomplicate things, like cramming lots of messages, takeaways, and lessons learned into a 5-7 minute Toastmasters speech and usually going over time.
    • In my sketches and improv classes, I tend to muddle the idea or forget the point of view to where you aren’t quite sure where it’s going or what I am trying to say. I want to be a better scene partner and writer and a simple way to do that is…keep it simple! 
    • I can get really wordy in my writing and also when I am facilitating meetings. Lots of run-on and long sentences back to back that really lose my audience. Keep it short, keep it simple! 
    • Keep it easy for my audience. Make sure my message and my meaning are easy to understand, and that will go a long way in my professional career and life!
  1. Embrace myself! 
    • This goes back to the imposter syndrome. I listen to some of my speeches and podcasts and think, “Why did I say that? Do I really sound like that? I really flubbed that sentence there.” I am definitely my own worst critic! I want to learn how to embrace myself—all the things I do well, all the mistakes I make, all my passions, all my quirks, all my silliness. Embrace it and stop wishing that I were someone else or as good as someone else, and just be me. 
    • I can keep striving to grow and fix some of these mistakes. However, if I can take the self-critic out of the situation, embrace myself, and be present, then I will take my speaking, my self-esteem, and my self-compassion to a new level. If I am constantly criticizing myself, I will forever limit myself!

I know all the SMART Goals advocates are pulling their hair out right now reading this. You have your way of making goals, and I have mine. These are my second half 2021 goals, and I am sticking to them! I will let you know how I fare at the end of the year!


There’s no magic time or age to wait to achieve your goals, and that includes public speaking goals. While I am using this half year mark as a chance to pause and reflect and also make more mantra goals for myself (all the mantras!), I want to remind you that you don’t have to wait until next week, next month, next birthday, next year to achieve your goals. You can challenge yourself now. You can go for your goals now! 

Want to conquer your fear of public speaking? Sign up for a course or training now! (Check out the A-Ha! Method: Public Speaking in a Time of Distraction course on Udemy.)

Want to give a big speech at work? Practice it now! (Come to one of our Speakers Alliance Public Speaking Practice Sessions.)

Want to give a Ted Talk? Can’t wait to hear it! Start working on your message now and practice it at our free sessions!

Want to step out of your comfort zone? Great! Get out of your own way and take one small step right NOW to start doing that.   

Cheers to the second half of 2021! Hope this mid-year goals restart helps you. Let’s check back in December 2021 and see how we did. 😀

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Boosting Your Confidence Building Confidence Improving Your Presentations Practice Sessions Public Speaking Practice

Practice your next speech with us!

Each week the Speakers Alliance runs a FREE Public Speaking and Pitching Practice Clinic for people looking to improve their public speaking skills. Anyone who wants to practice a presentation, speech, sales pitch, social occasion speech, etc. is welcome to join and participate! If you do not have a speech or pitch prepared, you can still attend and listen to others practice and ask questions during the Q&A period.

Talks can be 5-6 minutes long. The panel will provide up to 3-5 minutes of feedback after your talk.

This week’s session is on Thursday, July 1 from 12-1pm PT.

Please note: We will be changing up the practice session times each week. Follow us on social media for the most up to date announcements.

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Boosting Your Confidence Improving Your Presentations Podcast Public Speaking Tips Special Occasion Speeches Wedding Speeches

Episode 4: The A-Ha! Method Podcast

Social Speeches: How to Give the Best Toast of Your Life

Social speeches are often our first – and most important – moments for public speaking. Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, funerals – they all require good speeches and often are what prompts us to improve our speaking in the first place. Join Gabe Zichermann and Dayna Gowan for an exciting episode in which we discuss the opportunities and pitfalls of the social speech, and how to master it on your first go around.

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TWO Public Speaking Practice Clinics this week!

Have an upcoming speech, pitch or presentation?

Come practice it with us!

Each week the Speakers Alliance runs a FREE Public Speaking and Pitching Practice Clinic for people looking to improve their public speaking skills. Anyone who wants to practice a presentation, speech, sales pitch, social occasion speech, etc. is welcome to join and participate! If you do not have a speech or pitch prepared, you can still attend and listen to others practice and ask questions during the Q&A period.

Talks can be 5-6 minutes long. The panel will provide up to 3-5 minutes of feedback after your talk.

This week, we are offering not one but TWO practice sessions for you to join.

Join us on Wednesdays or Thursdays to practice your speeches, presentations and pitches. Speakers Alliance is here to help and support you in your public speaking journey!

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Boosting Your Confidence Public Speaking Nerves Public Speaking Sweats Sweating and Speaking

Episode 3: The A-Ha! Method Podcast

Never Let ’em See You Sweat

Episode 03

Getting sweaty comes with the territory of being a public speaker. But when the deluge starts, how do you keep yourself in a state of flow? On this episode, hosts Gabe Zichermann and Dayna Gowan talk about the tricks, tips and hacks for making yourself less self-conscious and more in charge of your sweatiness. 

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Never Let Them See You Sweat (when speaking)

I come from a long line of sweaty people. 

I remember my grandfather – whose BMI was much lower than mine – carrying a handkerchief in the dead of winter to mop his ever-sweaty brow. My larger frame (thicc by today’s standards) has made me even more sweaty in every aspect of my life. 

In general, I’ve come to terms with it. But when you’re watching your TED talk and see your arms lifted with sweat stains clearly visible through your dress shirt, it feels like too much. Being sweaty at the gym or beach poses minimal professional risk, but – even if people won’t tell you to your face – a super sweaty body or handshake isn’t great when you’re trying to bill $10,000/hour. 

Over my 20 years of paid, professional speaking I’ve tried almost everything to ameliorate this problem, from potions to just giving up and embracing my body’s quirks. Eventually I settled on a few tricks and strategies that have served me well. If you’re not a super-sweater, you might still find these useful – because even Zoom doesn’t hide those pits. And as any sweaty person knows, once you’re conscious of your sweat, it makes it almost impossible to focus on anything else (e.g. the speech you’re supposed to give). 

Antiperspirant

Antiperspirant is the first way most people try to solve this problem. But because adrenaline and increased blood pressure tend to increase sweating, speeches are more likely than most situations to “break through” supermarket brands. I recommend switching to a clinical-strength antiperspirant that you carry with you for talks (live or online). Asking your doctor for a recommendation is a great way to start. Don’t use the stuff regularly, or you’ll develop a tolerance for it (and potential other health complications) – so keep it for the “special” occasions of your speaking. If you don’t wear any antiperspirant on most occasions or days, you’ll find that the selective application of the stuff will help you on the days you need it most. 

Undershirts

Adding layers of undergarments can be a good go-to, but there’s a delicate balance between stopping your sweat from showing and raising your basal body temperature through excessive clothing. If you are an undershirt kind of person, a brand I’ve found to be highly effective is Eji’s. They make a line of “sweat proof” items that have a special liner to prevent your pits – and other parts – from showing. Whatever you do, don’t double up on undershirts or underwear – it will only make you hotter, and definitely won’t help. 

Blazers

The big secret of professional public speakers is the use of a strategic blazer. Men, women and non-binary speakers can find a range of great blazers that look good, project the right image, and help you keep from showing your sweat. The key is to not take the blazer off after your talk until the situation has calmed down, so to speak. This can be especially difficult in venues with inadequate air conditioning, but it’s a low price to pay for protection. And pro tip: black is both slimming and hides sweat the best. 

Handkerchiefs/Sanitizer

While your hands being sweaty during your talk is normal and really no big deal, sweaty hands after a talk – particularly when shaking them with prospective clients or event bookers – can be a major no-no. Take a minute after you’re done pitching or speaking from the stage to go to the restroom, wash your hands, dry them thoroughly, and return to the action in the venue. If that is impossible, a small amount of hand sanitizer (which you probably have at all times nowadays) and a handkerchief in your pocket can give your palms a quick refresh. Of course, you can also always use the pandemic as an excuse to elbow bump instead.

Body Temperature Regulation

There’s a reason that most TV studios are freezing cold. This serves two purposes: to keep the equipment and the hosts from overheating. Sweat ruins clothes, makeup and a 4K high-def close up, and the same will be true for you as a speaker. Now, you may not have control of the venue’s temperature – and particularly if you’re in Europe, the venue will most likely be on the warm side – but there are things you can do. First, dress for the venue prior to your talk. If it’s warm (and you’ll know because you followed my advice to scope it out beforehand), keep your blazer off and/or wear lighter clothes prior to the start of your talk. Don’t shower, work out or otherwise over-exert yourself in the hour before your speech or pitch begins, and do what you can to keep yourself calm. If you’re broadcasting from home – turn down the AC as low as it will go and freeze your room before the talk starts – you can set it back to a normal/cool temperature once you’re finished. And remember to drink lots of water…but not so much that you can’t time your bathroom breaks. 

Excessive sweating can become a clinical condition called Hyperhidrosis. Even if you don’t have this rare but often-debilitating issue, you can suffer from sweating that is “excessive” (a social, not medical construct) during and after important talks. The critical thing to remember, of course, is that this is perfectly normal. You should feel sweaty during and after a talk because you put your heart and soul into it, and that nervous reaction is absolutely natural. However, if you don’t feel confident and comfortable in your body under those circumstances, it will affect your performance. And the most critical thing is to ensure that your talk goes well, that you land your points, and that the audience is changed by what you have to say. Anything that gets in the way of that – and it’s usually something in your head – is detrimental to success. That’s why we teach the importance of practice, confidence and content-centricity in our self-directed online course, The A-Ha! Method

The phrase “Never let them see you sweat” was coined by advertising guru Phil Slott in his 1980s commercials for the antiperspirant Dry Idea. It caught on precisely because of its broader meaning: that you need to project confidence and calm, no matter how you’re feeling inside, if you want to conquer the highest peaks of your profession. Public speaking, pitching and meeting management are types of performance, and good performers invest in managing their sweat to create the right impression. 

The content comes first. But staying high and dry is always a good idea. 

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Boosting Your Confidence Fear of Public Speaking Podcast Public Speaking Nerves

Introducing: The A-Ha! Method Podcast

Episode 01

In this introduction to, and first episode of The A-Ha! Method Podcast, hosts Gabe Zichermann and Dayna Gowan talk through their own different paths to public speaking and the challenges they faced along the way. We’ll also look at why public speaking can be so hard for people – even those who are exceptionally good at other kinds of communication. 

Preview:

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Boosting Your Confidence Improving Your Presentations Public Speaking Tips Virtual Presentations

Practice Sessions every Wednesday from 6-7pm Pacific Time

Practice, practice, practice! That is the best way to become a better public speaker.

Each week the Speakers Alliance runs a FREE Speech Practice Clinic for people looking to improve their public speaking skills. Gabe and Dayna will discuss issues of importance, answer questions about professional and personal public speaking skills/techniques, and listen to/critique as many short-form talks as possible. The sessions take place Wednesdays at 6pm Pacific Time, and all are welcome. You can attend as many Wednesday sessions as you would like.

Talks can be 5-6 minutes long. The panel will provide up to 3 minutes of feedback. Speeches must be on a professional topic. If you do not have a speech prepared, you can still attend and listen to others practice and ask questions during the Q&A period.

REGISTER HERE FOR A WEDNESDAY SESSION!

Come join us on Wednesdays to practice your speeches, presentations and pitches. We are here to help and support you in your public speaking journey!

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Boosting Your Confidence Improving Your Presentations Public Speaking Tips Virtual Presentations

Zoom Presentations are Hard. Use these Tips to Up Your Game.

Each week The Speakers Alliance runs a free Speech Clinic for people looking to improve their public speaking skills. We discuss issues of importance, answer questions about professional and personal public speaking skills/techniques, and listen to/critique as many short-form talks as possible. The sessions take place Wednesdays at 6pm Pacific Time, and all are welcome.

In our session last week one of the first questions the participants asked was, “Why is it so much harder to do Zoom speeches than in-person?” 

There are several reasons why Zoom talks are objectively harder to give, and each one of these requires some adjustment to your practice in order to overcome.

Nodding Heads

You’ve probably noticed people nodding their heads when listening to someone else speaking, and if you pay attention, you’ll probably notice yourself doing the same thing. In most societies, this kind of passive nodding is a gesture that means “I’m listening to you.” It may also mean “I agree/disagree with you,” but that is much more gender and culture-specific. Over time, as we communicate to others in groups, we observe this behavior and model it. Then we may unconsciously seek the nod as affirmation, and become uncomfortable or disturbed when we don’t get it. If you’ve ever pitched to a completely stone-faced venture capitalist, you’ll know what I mean.

Virtual meetings (e.g. Zoom) make it very difficult to see if people are nodding their heads for a variety of reasons, including the size of video feed, whether the video feed is even on, the changing order of avatars and the need to focus on the camera itself (more on this later). All together, it is nearly impossible to see if people are listening to you, and if you’re empathetic/experienced in live speaking, this can cause you to slip out of flow. 

Being able to overcome your zero-feedback unease is a critical skill that will serve you well both for online and live talks. To do this, I recommend a few techniques to those I train:

  1. Attach a photo of someone you love just above the camera of your device. Focus your attention on that picture, and imagine you’re speaking directly to them as you deliver your lines. If you find it difficult to love, or are going through a big breakup, I suggest placing a picture of an attractive celebrity there, along with the encouragement to “look here”. This will help you both maintain camera focus and reduce your need for affirmation.
  2. Practice your presentations staring at a wall. Get around 6 inches from a wall, and practice giving your whole presentation in that state. Keep your eyes open and in soft focus. Repeating this process will make it easier for you to disconnect your visual reinforcement system from your speaking system. 
  3. For major presentations, I would go so far as to suggest having someone from your family stand behind the camera and listen to your speech. You can look at them, get the nods you need, and stay focused/engaged. Just make sure, as with all suggestions, that you align the external item with the camera so it appears that you’re looking directly at the audience.

Camera Focus

In live speeches, we’re often taught to scan the room so that we’re able to make eye contact with everyone at one time or another. This can also be accomplished in some settings by pacing on the stage (e.g. Apple Keynotes). However, when doing a presentation direct to camera, it is actually detrimental for you to dart your eyes around as you’re speaking, especially if you’re looking at little participant avatars in a strip. 

The best way to “make eye contact” in a Zoom presentation is to stare into the camera. Each participant will thus feel like you are talking directly to them, whereas if your gaze moves, they will feel the exact opposite. 

Doing this well can be hard for several reasons, including the fact that most webcams are actually hidden in the bezel of laptops these days, and only a small green LED indicates where the aperture is located. But also, the lens of a camera is cold and unfeeling, and even experienced and seasoned speakers often have trouble doing this well.

Follow the same advice as given above for nodding, but also consider getting a separate webcam and/or calling greater attention to the one you have. Just having a visual reference to look at that’s bigger than a small dot can do wonders for improving your gaze. Someone I was advising actually put a Gumby doll on their webcam…and it works!

Tech Issues

When you’re giving a talk live at your company or a conference, there are typically audio/visual technicians to help ensure all your pieces are running smoothly. For keynotes and other major presentations, you don’t even typically use your own devices to show slides, but rather give those to the AV team who makes everything runs smoothly. Thanks, AV team!

But when you present from your computer, you are the IT team, and even if you’re very computer savvy, even minor tech issues can negatively affect your performance. 

Follow this guidance to reduce your anxiety about tech issues (and the risk of having problems):

  1. Create a separate user on your device called “presentations”. In this user account, disable all apps that aren’t directly relevant to your presentation efforts. 
  2. 30 minutes before starting, reboot your computer into this “Presentations” user. Launch your key apps and make sure they are completely up to date. 
  3. Set up your lighting, change your clothes, adjust your mic and test your appearance at the beginning of this 30 minute period. If you do this well, you’ll be able to ensure everything is done with 15 minutes to spare – time you can use to practice mindfulness or to run through your presentation again. 
  4. Always logon to the event several minutes before your scheduled start time unless you’re told otherwise. This is your final check on the status of things.

There are plenty of ways to improve your Zoom presentations, and several of those tips, tricks and hacks are in our course, The A-Ha! Method: Public Speaking in a Time of Distraction. It includes hours of breakthrough material you can consume at your own pace, and a world of resources – including live events – that you can join to up your game whether live or online.

Take solace in the fact that presenting direct-to-camera – whether on Zoom or another platform – is hard for even the most experienced speakers. In a subsequent piece, we’ll look at best practices for hybrid (live and online) events, but in the meantime – practice, practice, practice.