New Book Teaches Entrepreneurs How to Become Better Speakers

The hardest part of being an entrepreneur is simply talking to people. If you don’t know what to say to people, or you don’t know how to say it well, you can’t make the sale, get a client, or share information about your company. In short, being able to speak about your business is the only way you’re going to get business or stay in business.

Michelle Mazur, a longtime speaking coach with a Ph.D. in communication, makes public speaking easy-okay, not easy, but easier and less painful than doing nothing. You’ll become a much better speaker simply by following her practical advice and suggestions in her new book Speak Up for Your Business: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Transformational Presentations that Tell, Sell, and Compel.

Nor is this your average “how to” book on public speaking. It’s more like a Toastmasters Manual on steroids. As a former Toastmaster myself, I felt I knew a lot about public speaking, but Michelle surprised me with all the great advice in this book, and she kept me interested all the way through with her down-to-earth humorous writing style and her entertaining stories. In other words, she speaks like she writes and vice-versa, and it has served her well, so she’s the perfect coach for anyone who wants to overcome the fear of public speaking or take his or her speaking abilities to the next level.

Right from the start, what I appreciated about Speak Up for Your Business was that Michelle tells people to quit trying to fake who they are. Her call to action includes, “Let’s stop copying other great communicators out there and start being ourselves!”

Michelle then walks the reader/would-be speaker through the process of crafting a speech. The main concern here is to have something worth saying, to create what she calls a “Transformational Talk.” The many steps to this process include how to find your BIG IDEA, know your audience (including stalking the audience members online before the big speech), the entire process of speech writing from beginning to end-although she tells us not to do it in that order-and all sorts of problem-solving advice, including why you should avoid the Q&A session at the end of your speech and how to adapt your presentation to whatever unexpected circumstances arise. Michelle even offers advice on how to get more speaking gigs-and it’s not by contacting her to get her free kit or sign up for her next workshop-because she’s all about taking the sleaze out of selling-I mean, public speaking-and delivering real value to your audience.

Michelle’s down-to-earth personality shines throughout the book and helps to get her point across. She’s not afraid to share her own triumphs and, even more, her faults, and she reminds us that we don’t need to be the audience’s hero because then we seem unreachable. Rather, we need to connect to the audience. I loved her chapter on embracing your inner F-bomb-that F-bomb is not what you might think it is. But that doesn’t mean people don’t occasionally say something they shouldn’t-Michelle even shares the time during a presentation when a word came out of her mouth that shouldn’t have and how she dealt with it.

I can guarantee that reading this book will help you become a better public speaker. As an author myself who often is asked to give presentations, I’ve found many helpful hints and ideas as well as examples of what not to do that I will apply to my own future presentations. Whether you are an author, business owner, employee who just wants to make a case for why you deserve a raise, or someone who wants to promote a charity-whatever your business or purpose in life, reading Speak Up for Your Business is going to help make a big difference for you, your business, and most importantly, your audience-it’s really about the audience, not you-just another of the great tips I learned from Michelle.

New Book Nudges Us to Live Life Fully

Can you even imagine what it must have been like to be a responder to the Columbine shooting? How could anyone move past the horror and sadness of such an event, and go on to continue to do her job through numerous other tragic situations, much less to live a happy and fulfilling life?

Autumn Shields has just about seen it all in her former career as a victim advocate. She has seen tears and pain and senseless violence, but she has also seen the human spirit rise above it all and continue on. Now, in her new book Living Your Life Alive, she shares with us how sometimes it takes tragedy to make us wake up and live the lives intended for us. Hopefully, however, you won’t need to experience a tragedy to have a wakeup call; instead, as Autumn explains, you just have to listen to your “inner nudges.”

Sadly, too many of us don’t listen to our nudges. We allow negativity and self-doubt to hold us back in life. Autumn illustrates this point by explaining how monkeys are captured on Borneo:

“On Borneo, the natives have a unique way of catching monkeys. They use a hollowed out coconut and some green bananas-the monkeys’ favorite treat. In one end of the coconut, they make a hole just big enough for an adult monkey’s open hand. They tether the other end of the coconut to a tree. Then they drop a banana into the coconut and scatter some around to bait the monkeys.”

“When a troop of monkeys shows up, one monkey will invariably find the coconut and stick in a hand and grab the banana. The monkey is then trapped. Not in the sense that the monkey can’t get away-all it has to do is let go of the banana, after all. But when the villagers show up the next day, they almost always find the monkey battered and bruised or dead of exhaustion because it spent its energy struggling to free its hand without releasing its grip.”

Too many people are like the monkeys. As a result, it may take something drastic for us to wake up and live our lives alive. Other times, we just need some guidance from someone like Autumn to help us move past our fears and doubts. Through her book’s pages, Autumn takes readers on a journey that addresses many of the things that hold them back from living up to their greatest potentials. From discussing overcoming fear to how to remove the masks we hide behind, and from creating a vision for our lives to taking steps to making that vision our reality, Autumn leads us down the path to becoming our own success stories.

Autumn also reminds us that success-however we want to define it-will take some work. Not that we should be intimidated by successful people, thinking we can’t accomplish what they have. She uses Facebook to illustrate this point: “We tend only to see the result, the success story, or the perfect life portrayed on Facebook. What if we could see the minutes of someone’s life instead of just his or her title or result? We tend to compare ourselves to everyone else’s success, but we judge ourselves by our minutes.”

We need to take the time to focus on our minutes. We need to realize that in those minutes, one piled on another, are the steps to our success provided we use each minute well. In the end, our nudges will lead to vision and work, and we will have a payoff finding rewards we least expect. Autumn illustrates this by referring to sunsets on Maui, where she now lives. (How she moved to Maui is a story of nudges answered that you’ll have to read for yourself). People often want to watch the sunset, but Autumn has observed that if they see the sky darken or cloud over just minutes beforehand, they figure the sunset won’t be worth watching so they leave. But Autumn knows the sunset still happens and will be beautiful and the sky may clear at the last minute: “But those other people left… right before. Why not wait the five minutes and just enjoy the air or watch the waves crash on shore? Why do we put so much emphasis on the exact time of the sunset and then walk away from it? As my son has pointed out, ‘Who cares about the sunset? The sky is always more colorful right afterwards.’ We make things the point and forget to enjoy the surrounding moments. We forget to enjoy the right before, the point, and the after… the moments.”

Living Your Life Alive is full of other beautiful moments that have important messages for us, but I’ll just conclude by mentioning that at the end of the book Autumn interviews a number of inspiring people who are examples of living your life alive. Among these people is Kimokeo Kapahulehua, a man who teaches others about Hawaiian Culture. In his interview, he remarks that when people ask him how he can paddle his canoe for hours and stay calm despite the unknown things out on the open sea, he replies, “Because they went before us.” Autumn goes on to explain, “Although we might not know our ancestors, they are with us. He [Kimokeo] just thinks about what his great-grandfather must have done with his mind or hands with the resources he had. He knows that many of his ancestors were doing what he is doing, years and years ago. He draws on their strength because it is now in him. He encourages you to draw on the strengths of those who have gone before you.”

I’ve often felt the same way Kimokeo does. After everything our ancestors have endured, and everything they did to make this world better for us, we have no excuses. We stand on their shoulders and they are cheering us on from a distance to live our lives alive. I encourage readers to honor those ancestors, and more importantly, to honor themselves by living their lives alive. Begin to do so by listening to your nudge to read this book.

New Book Offers Insight Into Family’s Autism Experience and Obstacles Overcome

Author Randa Habelrih is the mother of Richard, a young man with autism. But Richard is a lot more than that, and Randa and her husband, Elias, and their daughter, Emily, knew that from the very beginning. Today, Richard is a confident young man who graduated from high school and has a job, but the road to that level of success was not easy. In her new book, Dealing with Autism, Randa chronicles her family’s journey through the maze of finding schools, aides, therapies, and acceptance for Richard while overcoming their own obstacles of fear and frustration. While the book contains plenty about autism, it’s more a story about how to cope with a child on the autism spectrum when the rest of the world would prefer not to cope with it.

Unfortunately, autism is something we all must cope with today. Randa makes that fact clear by citing studies that show that 1 in 100 Australians have autism. While Randa’s family lives in Sydney, Australia, the facts are even more startling here in the United States – 1 in 68 people have autism and boys are five times more likely to have it. In other words, we all know someone with autism so we should all know at least the basics about it.

While I am not the parent of an autistic child, I do know people with autism. Reading this book helped me better understand how to communicate with them. It also gave me insight into the difficulties of dealing with the initial shock of the autism diagnosis, and perhaps even worse, the rejection felt by the family because of their child (rejection that operates on multiple levels from family and friends to schools and organizations), and the fight the parents must engage in to get their child the necessary help. It’s not an easy fight, and it is wearing on the family dynamics-as Randa points out, half of marriages in which a child is diagnosed with autism end in divorce.

Randa’s story, as shared in this book, is of a true pioneer mother who raised awareness of autism so her child could receive fair and equal treatment to the greatest extent possible. Today, there is more awareness than when her son was first diagnosed, but when Richard was first diagnosed, the Internet was in its infancy and apps didn’t even exist. Today, parents have far more resources at their fingertips than Randa did, and in the appendices, she gives a list of books, websites, and apps as resources-there’s even an app to help a child who can’t speak to communicate what he or she needs.

Despite greater visibility for autism today, acceptance is still difficult. Parents in the same situation will find inspiration in reading Randa and Richard’s story. Randa describes how difficult it was to get a school to accept Richard as a student. Before the battle was over, she had contacted not just the principal, but even the State Minister of Education’s office, until she found acceptance for Richard. She devotes a whole chapter to “If I Ran the School System,” describing how schools need to do a better job of making sure autistic children are not socially isolated or bullied. She gave a paper at the Inaugural ASPECT Autism in Education Conference, created with her daughter an educational video about autism, and is currently preparing to launch The School M.A.T.E.S. Autism Programme in schools, which will assist teachers in helping autistic children and pair up students with the autistic children so they are “mates,” thus providing help for the autistic child and leadership opportunities for the other students. All of these efforts are commendable and speak to Randa’s dedication to raising awareness about autism, as well as the love she bears for her son.

I also appreciated that Randa provided different perspectives in the book besides her own. The Foreword is written by David McInnes, the principal at the high school Richard attended. He discusses how knowing Richard made him a better principal and father and how schools can help autistic children. Chapter 6 is written by Richard’s sister, Emily, who was five when he was born. Emily describes how she blamed herself for her little brother’s situation; how she was loyal to him, refusing to play with children who rejected him; and ultimately, how the experience of having a sibling with autism has inspired her to study for her Master’s in Clinical Psychology and specialize in autism spectrum disorder with a focus on building social skills and communication.

Additional chapters discuss survival tips for marriage, the importance of developing a success mindset, and finally, there are appendices that include sample letters to write to teachers to help them understand your child’s specific needs, facts about autism, and descriptions of several types of therapy, including applied behavioral analysis, which uses a system of tasks and rewards to educate the autistic child on social behavior skills, as well as occupational, speech, social skills, physical, play, and other therapies.

Dealing with Autism won’t have every answer in it for parents faced with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, but reading it will make them feel understood and give them a roadmap of where to go. I imagine such a diagnosis can cause a parent to feel trapped in a dark cave of despair, but this book is like having Randa take your hand and guide you out of the cave with a shining light that will bring you back into the daylight and restore your hope. Read it for your child, for yourself, and for the betterment of the world.