Founder of MasterTalk Brenden Kumarasamy discusses effective leadership communication skills in public speaking and connecting with your audience.
Effective communication through public speaking is the best way to grow your business. We may not be gifted with great communication skills right away, but it is possible to acquire. Meny Hoffman discusses these with Brenden Kumarasamy. Brenden is a public speaking coach and the founder of MasterTalk, which was created to help us master the art of communication. Leading an organization is not an easy task. Still, with Brenden’s powerful thoughts on fundamental concepts in being an effective communicator, we can take the leap to be the best leader we can be. He shares the proper balance between storytelling, inspiration, and informative speaking. Let’s dive into the challenges behind communication goal settings and practical advice with a public speaking coach expert.
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Unpacking Effective Communication From its Core―With Brenden Kumarasamy
Our guest is Brenden Kumarasamy. Brenden is the Founder of MasterTalk, a YouTube channel he started to help the world master the art of public speaking and communication. He helps ambitious executives and coaches become top 1% communicators in their industries. Have you ever wondered how you could become a better or more effective communicator? How about speaking in public? Did you go to an event, you saw a great speaker and you say, “I wish I could learn some of the tactics the speaker is using.”
This episode is full of golden nuggets only for that purpose– How you, as a leader, can become an effective communicator, not only to yourself and your team but also as a public speaker. We broke down the fear of public speaking, how to overcome it. And Brenden also shares tangible, practical tips on how you can be better at communicating in your next meeting. Without further ado. Here is my interview.
Brenden, thank you so much for joining me on the show.
It’s great to be here, Meny. Thanks for having me.
This is going to be a lot of fun because whenever I hear the word storytelling, communication, being a more effective leader and speaker, this is totally up my alley. Forgive me from the get-go that I’m going to ask some good questions because I want to learn first.
I love it. Let’s bring it on.
As a starting point, tell me a little bit about your history. What got you to be excited and passionate about this topic and ultimately what you currently do with it?
I’m happy to elaborate. For me, my journey started when I did case competitions. Think of it like professional sports but for nerds. Other guys of my age in university played rugby, soccer, football or any sport. I did presentations for fun. For three years, I presented over 500 times, coached dozens of people on their communication skills and I accidentally got good at communication coaching.
After that, I went on to work in the corporate world and I realized that a lot of the content available, how to speak and how to communicate wasn’t layered in practicality. You hear advice like, “You should be yourself. You should follow your dreams. You should imagine everyone in their underwear.” I said, “What are you supposed to do with this advice?” I started making YouTube videos at home. Over time, MasterTalk turned into a movement and a professional coaching business as well.
When you speak about what you’re doing as far as the profession, is this more on one-on-one coaching? Is this more of a style that you’re doing across the board? How do you implement the teaching and the findings that you have?You're better off saying the same story a hundred times than a hundred different stories. Click To Tweet
You’ll find this interesting as well as a connoisseur of storytelling and public speaking. What’s unique about what I do is I almost exclusively run group coaching programs. It’s a very small group, not twenty people group. I’m talking 6 to 8, maybe 10 people. The reason is that during any week, these individuals in the group practice with each other. Let’s say I’m your speech coach. We’re doing one-on-one coaching for X number of dollars. I’ll meet with you once a week for an hour and we’ll practice together.
In a group coaching setting, now there are seven executives and everyone is a high performer, everyone is ambitious and want to succeed, those 7 to 8 people, we pair them up with each other so they’re practicing 5 to 6 hours a week. When they come back to the next group coaching session that I facilitate, they’re ten times better than they were the previous week. That’s how it gets implemented.
Let’s dive in a little bit deeper. This is something that I find very compelling as a topic. When you run a podcast, you have all different guests and obviously, every guest is important. It brings value and a lot of it is leadership, culture, managing the growth and everything around the finances part. Personal development is the most important part of everything. I think it’s Dave Ramsey that once said that, “A company will never outgrow its leader. The stronger the leader is, the stronger the organization is as a whole.” When you’re speaking about personal development, one of the most important parts is to be an effective communicator. Do you agree?
I completely agree with that.
I would love to unpack that and let’s dive into some practical advice. A lot of times, I speak to leaders that their leader is by accident, which means they had this hobby, passion, they started something on their own, all of a sudden, they have 1, 2, 5 employees and they have this whole team behind them then they’re the leader. They maybe never communicating in the first place but now it’s not about communication. It’s about effective communication. Where do you see this? How much of that is something that is skilled at the latest could literally learn even if they’ve not been born communicators?
I’ve always believed that in almost 100% of the cases, there might be 1 or 2 exceptions. From my experience, anyone can be an exceptional communicator. Speaking specifically to the community that we’re speaking to C-suite executives, leaders, people who are running businesses, what I would say to that group of people is the biggest area of improvement that we all have. This is something even I’m working on. It’s goal-setting for communication specifically. All of us have career goals, business goals, financial goals, health goals or relationship goals but none of us have communication goals.
One immediate action point that I can give everyone who’s reading is to pick three speakers in your industry that you admire and ask yourself a simple question, “Why do I admire these people in my industry? What do I like about their speaking style? What is one thing I can implement from each of them and spend an hour a week watching some of their keynotes and what they do during interviews?” Start to reflect on why did those three people resonate with you? Already that, in and of itself, will put you ahead of 90% of your industry.
This very practical tip. If you could elaborate on something that I’ve seen a little bit of confusion in the marketplace is the difference between being an inspire or speakers think Tony Robbins or anybody in this caliber versus being an effective communicator. If you are a leader and leading your team, how much is the content of the communication? How do you communicate that versus the inspiration around it and the storytelling? What’s the proper balance and where does a leader start first?
Here’s my opinion on this. Every coach is going to give you a different answer but here’s mine. The way that I think about this is always plated the extremes then go to the means. What does this mean? Whenever we’re in the boardroom or we’re talking to other executives, these meetings are boring. You’re not going to get better at your communication skills in that environment because you’re changing presentations every time, your deliverables are always changing, your content is changing and you’re not particularly excited about it. It’s not, “Meny, you get to present this amazing new project and initiative notes. Meny, I need you to give a status update for this industry and submit this request for proposal or whatever.” You’re bored, stressed and you have to always change topics.
I always recommend for executives to do is aspire to speak like Tony, have fun with your communication, practice your vocal tones and expressions and then once you’ve practiced the extremes, use those techniques and bring them back into your board meeting. Here’s an easy example that people resonate with immediately. There are two executives and those two executives present the same content. I want you to pay attention to the difference. Executive one sounds something like this. “Meny and the rest of the teams, it’s great to be here. We’re going to go through some of the meeting points. If you have any questions, feel free to let me know.” This is very typical of any C-suite meeting or any boardroom meeting.
Executive two, same content, doesn’t need to sound like Tony Robbins but with that technique, it sounds more like this, “Good afternoon, everyone to the board of directors and everyone in the room. It’s great to be here. I’d love to spend these next 30 minutes going through the five key topic conversations that were agreed upon. If you have any questions whatsoever, don’t be shy to reach out to me.” Same content, different expression.
Let’s unpack the two. In my opinion, what it’s doing for the room, it’s setting a certain tone and a certain vibe for the other people to feel comfortable. Knowing what type of rhythm we want to be in for the next 30 to 60 minutes? Is that correct?
That’s correct. One other thing I’d add as well especially at the top. The biggest mistake that executives make is they don’t realize that every interaction, every word that comes out of their mouth is a reflection of their personal brand within the organization. What does that mean? That means if we don’t sound excited or not crazy excited but at least interested in what we’re doing every moment of every day, that also says something to the people who are listening to the message.
The difference between a manager and a vice president or a CEO is a manager is managing interns or people who are entry-level employees. A VP or SVP is managing extremely efficient and talented managers who can work for anybody else. It’s about keeping that in mind. One tactic I have to work on this is if I was a VP in a company, what I would do is I would have lunch once a week with an entry-level employee and communicate with them because it keeps the pulse on the entire organization. You can keep in touch with the challenges that people have and you’re always reminded of the stress that people have when they start working at a company.
There’s one thing that I always say when I speak to leaders is, what is the number one characteristic of a great leader? Everybody will shout out different one-liners. I always end up with the word clarity. If the leader has clarity then there’s one thing if you have clarity and you don’t do it, it’s even worse and that’s not effectively communicating to your team. Sometimes a leader, it’s clear with what they wanted to achieve or they make changes in the strategy for the company. They’re not communicating it. The teams say, “What’s going on over here?” The fact that the communication part is the most important obviously as the leader. Otherwise, they’re doing everything on their own because nobody understands what they want and why they’re doing what they were doing.
I completely agree.
One very practical point, find some inspiring speakers and leaders that you appreciate when you heard them speak, hear about them speak, listen to those things and try to feel out some of those pointers. What would you say to those people who say, “It’s not me. I can’t come and start being the loud person in the room or speak with that tone. I’m just that introvert then all of a sudden, I have to lead?” How do you work on yourself to get to that level?
There’s a quick, easy answer here. That’s a limiting belief in my opinion. CEOs of companies always tell me this. I always reply with, “You’re picking the list. These are speakers you admire.” I can shoot a couple, Susan Cain, Brené Brown, amd Seth Godin. These are examples of individuals who were exceptional speakers. Many of these speakers command $100,000 speaking fees and they’re all introverted. They’re not trying to be super loud in a boardroom.
What I always say to those people is to pay attention to the people you admire. They don’t have to be thought leaders. If you’re an executive at a company, it could be the CTO, CFO, CEO of that company that you’re a part of that you just liked the way they communicate. This is the key. You’re the captain of this goal sheet so pick the speakers that you admire and I guarantee you, there are three introverts that you can model your style after as well without being loud like Tony.Every great story has a lesson and an outcome that people should be taking away. Click To Tweet
I think you mentioned something very powerful. I’m not sure if our audience paid attention to what you said. I want to go back there, that people have company goals and different goals that they set out to do at the beginning of the year or at the beginning of the quarter. Communication and you’re speaking effectively should be one of those goals. How will you break down if a leader wants to get better at being that communicator? Every leader is different because they start off at a different point but some of the stuff you’ve seen when you were working with different leaders. What would be some of those milestones? Somebody could say, “My first step should be X, Y, Z,” to give some food for thought to some of the leaders out there.
The way that I think about this, Meny. Let’s talk about the challenge behind communication goal setting and why people don’t set goals. From that, I’m happy to give some tactics. The reason is fairly simple. It’s a lot harder to measure progress in your communication. I’ll give you a perfect example of this. Let’s say you and I are running a marathon. We’re running a 40-kilometer race together. I don’t want to run this marathon but you’re someone who’s hard-working and you’re always saying, “Brenden, we need to go for a run.” The reason I say yes to you is, one, you’re knocking on my door at 5:00 AM but the other reason is that we can visualize the end of the goal. You and I run past the finish line, you have a gold medal, I have a participation ribbon but I still finished the marathon.
On this, health goals or financial goals are easy for us to quantify progress because health is losing weight as an example. Financial is, “I want to make $500,000.” It’s specific but what does a great communicator even mean? The answer is we don’t really know. With that said, how do we measure progress? The way I teach this to executives is the following. The best way to do communication goals and to set them is through other speakers. Compare the right things. What I always like to say is put those three people on a goal sheet and then ask yourself, go deep on one of them or all three of them if you’re keen. Spend some time watching 5 or 10 of their keynotes and ask yourself a simple question. What is one thing that they’re doing well that I want to learn and I want to take away?
I’ll give you an easy example of this. Gary Vaynerchuk is a speaker that I’m sure is very well-known across the world. He’s on my goal sheet and the reason is not that he’s aggressive and all that stuff. It’s because he’s a master at relatability. He’s one of the few speakers in the world that can relate to 80-year-olds and 6-year-olds and they all love him. That’s a skill that I work on a lot. Whenever I’m talking to you or I’m talking to a six-year-old, I’m always trying to communicate with them in a way that makes me more relatable to them. That’s one area of focus and everyone can do this with any speaker that they admire as well.
I want to move the topic into storytelling. It’s something that you’re very passionate about and speaks about. First, given that intro, we spoke about effective communication but now we’re speaking about another level which is storytelling, with some of the speakers that I admire because they come across as authentic with the way they speak in a storytelling style. Tell me more about how you see storytelling and where that comes into play on a daily basis.
My opinion on storytelling, I think most executives, especially, practice it the wrong way. They watch a Disney movie, see a coach on TV and go, “I need to be a master at stories,” and they don’t know how to approach it. That’s the problem. Storytelling is very vague. It’s a very difficult concept to teach. My approach to storytelling is always the following. Focus on the foundations first. Are you saying fewer filler words? Are you speaking with a lot more confidence? Are you practicing your goal sheets? Are you looking at these specific areas and are you seeing progress first in that? What happens is as you start to build momentum in your communication and then you say, “Let’s focus on storytelling.” Here’s the one tip that really matters.
I can spend an hour going through all the structures and my frameworks but I think the easiest thing to say is the following. You’re better off telling the same story 100 times than 100 different stories one time. The best example, Gary Vaynerchuk. Let’s use him again. He doesn’t re-invent to wheel people. He literally walks up to a stage, he gets paid $125,000, probably more at this point to say the following. “Gary here. I grew up in the Soviet Union. I came to the States.” That’s it. People love it and that’s the point I want to drive.
I think this is such a valuable missed point. I’ll give you an example. One of a leader reached out to me and he told me they’re doing an event. They’re running on the US and they’re going to be sharing the core values and everything else. They’re looking for a speaker. He wanted me to come to speak. I wasn’t available and then he was bugging me for whoever I could suggest as other speakers to speak at his company. I picked up the phone and told him, “Jacob, I want to tell you something. I think the best speaker for this event is you.” He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Lock yourself in the room for one hour, jot down some points on what you want your team to know about you, the company, why you’re doing this then go back from the first bullet and start elaborating the points that you want to get out.”
He called me after the event. He said, “This was the best piece of advice that I ever got. I would never think I could speak. I thought I need to bring in a third person out of the company to share why we’re doing corporate events for a company. I had this information. I had a fear of how to deliver that message.” Ultimately, he’s the leader of the company. Who else could deliver that message other than the leader himself?
That’s powerful. I completely agree with that.
I was so happy for him because once he cracked the code, he starts getting comfortable delivering that message. You have to constantly study and improve yourself. Now your team has their own leader speaking to them. How cool is that? I want to ask the same question I asked and you gave me a very clear answer before on effective communication. When it comes to storytelling, it does have some art in it. Is that also something that you could learn or maybe you could learn to some degree? What’s your take on that part?
I believe anything can be learned. I’ll explain why I haven’t talked about myself and the story I had, which was the following. I grew up in Montreal. In Montreal, you need to know how to speak French. My whole life, I grew up in a French education system. I know the language now but I didn’t know it from the ages of 5 to 16. Every presentation I gave, I forget being uncomfortable. I was speaking in a language I didn’t even know. If I could become a communication expert, imagine what all of you who are reading can do with your communication skills. That’s why I’m a big believer in anything that can be taught especially in the context of communication.
Let’s get to your question about storytelling. What do we do about it? Here’s an easy framework that we don’t bust her head because we already have a lot of tips here that people need to take action on. We get it simple. Outcome-story. Every great story has a lesson or an outcome that people should be taking away. It’s always easier to start with the outcome first. Ask yourself if there’s any doubt. I’m sure you gave the same advice to your friend who did an amazing job speaking about the core values. What are the three action points that I want my audience to take away?
I’ll give you an example of a story I told you in the show. Let me break that down. I need to explain to Meny and his audience that goal-setting communication is vague. It’s not easy. What do I do? Let me tell a story about a marathon because that’s something people resonate with. Everyone knows what a marathon is and how easy it is to visualize that goal, outcome, story. What are your three main outcomes that you’re going to repeat 1,000 times as a leader in your organization? What is the story that is linked to that outcome? If you start with that, I think you’ll get 80% of the result.
Great practical tips. I love it. I want to ask you another question. Sometimes you could see great leaders. Ultimately, they have mastered the art of communication and storytelling to the degree that they should be able to run but then they’re constantly bringing in other leaders as the company and the organization are growing. How much time or what would be some practical tips of how could those leaders effectively teach and train the second tier of leaders in their company to make sure not only are they effectively communicating but sometimes the communication has to sync up? When we speak about storytelling, sharing the vision and goal of a company and the direction of the company, it needs to sync up. What are some practical points how those leaders need to communicate between themselves in order to make sure that the communication is effective?
The way that I think about this is communication is all about collaboration. If you’re not practicing it with a group, you’re probably doing it wrong or you’re not advancing as quickly as you’d like. Here’s what I would do if I were a CEO of a company, I was training other leaders and I wasn’t an expert in communication. I would have an expert trained to meet and then, I would also have that expert train me on how I give feedback to other people in the group.
Going back to the coaching program, that’s why the group is so effective. You can do this within your own companies where you have a group of 5 to 7 people and you give feedback to each communication. What this does is creates a virtuous cycle of feedback culture from a communication perspective. What does that mean? Whenever somebody is in a performance meeting, usually the conversation is about you’re a great communicator or you could be better.
It’s super high level versus, now that you’re better at communication, you’re also better at giving feedback because an expert taught you to do it, you can say something like this, “In this meeting, I would communicate this and this and I would communicate it in this way instead.” This is what we call replaying where instead of going, “Meny, you can work on this,” and you’re sitting there like, “What do I do with communication?”
You would say something like, “Meny, you said this in a meeting. I would say it like this and I would show you in that conversation,” then you go, “Now I know how to do this.” It’s about empowering people at the top to be exceptional communicators and people who are also teachers themselves. They can slowly teach the people at the down levels how to do the same thing and then celebrating that.Communication is all about collaboration. If you're not practicing with a group, you're probably doing it wrong. Click To Tweet
I want to ask you one more question. I know that there’s a lot of fear out there for leaders and one of the ones that I’ve seen on top is public speaking. Literally, people are being given an opportunity to come on a podcast, go on stage or be part of a panel. There’s this huge fear, even a person that would be great in communicating for their own organization speaking for their own teams but as soon as it’s out of a comfort zone and it’s public, I wouldn’t ask specifically why the fear but I would rather ask for some positive question like if somebody has that fear and wants to break that fear, what would be those first few steps they could take?
The reason is fairly simple. I don’t blame anyone who’s scared of public speaking. It’s not their fault and I’ll explain why simply. Think about all of the presentations you’ve gained in your life from ages zero to now. I don’t care if you’re 40 or you could be 50. The answer is simple. You’ve given 99% of those presentations in two places. One at school, high school, college, university and two at work. Here’s the problem with all of those presentations.
One, they’re all mandatory. We don’t wake up one morning and say, “Meny, do you want to get breakfast and present all day?” Nobody says that. Number two, you never get to pick the topic. When you go into a school environment or work environment, it’s never, “Meny, what do you want to present? What are you excited about?” It’s “Meny, I need you to give this work presentation,” or, “Meny, can you present Shakespeare for fifteen minutes?” You’re there like, “Okay.” Number three, nobody has access to great coaches. Teachers are busy in high school and college. They have 70 students and 70 presentations. They don’t have time to coach you.
When you go to work, you might have some corporate trainers but no one is making public speaking fun or engaging for you so you see it as a chore. Anything that we see as a chore immediately, we naturally wouldn’t be good at it. That’s the reason why we’re scared of communication. Every time we present over and over again, we see it as a chore. How do we fix that? The way we fix this is by changing the mindset around what communication is for. Is communication for telling my people what to do or inspiring them to do more? That’s the frame. The question that we can end this show on that I’d love for all of you to reflect on is the following that nobody asked themselves. The question is how would the world change if you were an exceptional communicator?
This is has been great. I think there’s so much. Whoever is reading this episode will probably re-read this again. These are the episodes that I always encourage at this practical point where there are people literally taking and creating milestones from those pointers that we discussed. Where can our audience find more about you?
The easiest way to get involved through definitely my YouTube channel. All you got to do is type MasterTalk to the search engine. You’ll find my videos. If you want to contact me for coaching, you’ll have the information there.
Let’s close with four rapid-fire questions. Are you ready?
Let’s do it.
Number one, a book to change your life?
Thirst by Scott Harrison, without a doubt.
Number two, a piece of advice you got that you never forget?
Be insane or be the same.
Number three, anything you wish you could go back and do differently?
About 50% of our guests say that. Fourth and final question, what’s still on your bucket list to achieve?
I would say 100,000 subscribers on my YouTube Channel and traveling more.
When you reach that, let’s come back and celebrate. Brenden, thank you so much for joining us. I know your time is valuable. That is why in the name of our audience, we will forever be grateful for sharing some of your time with us.
Likewise, such a pleasure.
- MasterTalk – YouTube
About Brenden Kumarasamy
Brenden is the founder of MasterTalk, a YouTube channel he started to help the world master the art of public speaking & communication. He helps ambitious executives & coaches become TOP 1% communicators in their industries.