Two Keys to a Successful Persuasion Speech

Persuasion is the art of convincing people to do what you think it best and making them like the idea. How do you do it without sounding like a huckster?

persuasionPersuasion isn’t just about how long or how much you can speak and wear down your listeners to finally give in– it’s about moving your audience to do something.

How does persuasion work?

How do you persuade someone?

We always expect something to come after the word “convince” or “persuade.” We want to convince someone to do something. We want to persuade someone to believe or act in a certain way.

There you have it.  That’s the difference between a public speaker  and a two-year old’s public tantrum.

Rhetoric – the art of persuasion – is undoubtedly as old as speaking. I’m sure that it wasn’t just the ancient Greeks who studied the methods of persuasion, but we tend to use their words in English to describe the ways we approach our audience to convince them – with facts, emotions, and logic.   Watch the Oxyclean commercial and see how it’s done.

How effective are facts alone? Facts are not persuasive by themselves. We lose the power of a fact when it’s not put into context. We have to relate the facts to the overall story.

Story may be the key to producing a persuasive speech.  People don’t remember facts, figures, or statistics.  They will remember a good story.

How to Pick a Topic for Persuasion

Persuasive speeches are hard to write. They take time to craft and practice. For the first time you give this project, I might suggest that you pick a topic that is fairly innocuous – not one that people are going to become offended by. A topic that they’re open to considering allows you to concentrate on the skills you’re working to develop, not so much on the arguments that you’ll have to answer. A humorous topic or something about your community might be a gentle place to start. You don’t have to go full bore and argue about legalizing this or criminalizing that. Go easy on yourself.

Three Rhetorical Techniques for Persuasion

A few rhetorical tricks that can help you be more persuasive.

  1. The classic “rhetorical question” opens a speech in a way that can draw your audience into your speech. When you ask a question that you don’t really expect a response to, you can create a sense of curiosity in your listeners. Don’t you think so?
  2. Another good rhetorical technique is the repeating things three times. Now, this shouldn’t be an exact repeat over and over. It’s more like starting a sentence the same way but changing the end. President Kennedy used the phrase “Let both sides” start three sentences in his inaugural address in 1961. It reinforces a message to the audience.
  3. Learn to use the long pause. If you were writing out your speech, you might put in an ellipsis or start a new paragraph… to show the audience how important what you said was, and the equal importance of what is to follow.  You don’t have to sound… like… William Shatner.  But pauses help you by letting your audience catch up, or take a moment to think about what you’ve just said.

If you want to see an amazing example of a persuasive presentation, take a look at this Youtube video.  This guy has amazing presentation skills!

The Take Away

What are the two keys to a successful persuasive speech?

  1. Make sure your call to action is clear, concise, simple and specific.
  2. Use a personal story that will hook your audience with strong emotions that directly links to the problem you address and the call to action you give.

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Visual Aids: Make Your Speech Visually Stimulating

Engaging the Senses What’s the point of visual aids? I think that it’s about engaging more of your audience’s senses than just hearing you speak.

Engaging the Sensesvisual aids

What’s the point of visual aids?

I think that it’s about engaging more of your audience’s senses than just hearing you speak.  A visual aid adds a layer to your speech that your voice or body can’t add.

It’s not just about handouts or PowerPoint images.  Your goal is to bring your audience to a different place than they were before you began – and sometimes, an image or an object can do it faster and more effectively than words.  Pictures are worth a thousand words?  So then might a good visual aid.

Better than just one sense, try to engage many.  When I had to give a presentation about Toastmasters club officer roles, I stopped by a local bakery and bought my visuals – bread rolls.  The smells captured my audience as much as the sight of blueberry muffins and cinnamon rolls.  Yes, I will stoop that low for a good pun.

What’s a Good Visual Aid?

Is anything you bring onto the stage with you a visual aid?  I wouldn’t argue with you if that’s what you said.  I’ve seen a speaker bring a piece of exercise equipment that lets him hang upside down as a prop for his speech.  (Think about what I wrote.  Wouldn’t a picture have done a better job than me explaining it?  I couldn’t find one!)

A good visual is big enough for the audience to see and understand.  That’s pretty much it.  This is why so many people go for the PowerPoint presentations – they can use little objects but make them big enough for the back row to see.

I prefer color to pale or pastel visual aids, but that may just be my inclination to bright colors.  If I needed a ping-pong ball, I wouldn’t go out of my way to find a colored one.

Distracting Visual Aids

A good visual aid is not distracting to the audience when it’s not in use.  Don’t carry it when you’re not using it.  If it’s unstable, like a ball on a table, then figure out a way to prevent it from rolling and upstaging your speech.  There’s an old theater story about an actress who was fighting with her co-star.  She entered the scene with a full glass of wine in her hand, and when she left the stage, she strategically placed the goblet on the edge of a table, where the audience couldn’t miss it.  When would it fall?  No one paid any attention to the actress’s co-star – they all waited for the wine glass to fall.  It never did – she’d prepped with a piece of tape on the table top that would hold the glass in place.  Make sure your visual aid doesn’t upstage you!

Using a box to store your visual aids can be a way to create curiosity in your audience.  Decorate the box in some way to market your message – don’t let any opportunity to influence your audience to get away from you.

Regarding Memorization:

I recommend Andrea Ambam’s excellent, winning speech from the National Speech and Debate Association 2014 competition.  Remember that the NSDA standards are not Toastmasters’ practices, so this speech isn’t in our usual format.  Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful speech!

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Research Your Credibility

How Your Audience Perceives Youresearch your credibility

Research your audience before you get up to speak.  I think most audiences can be classified as friendly, uninformed, or antagonistic.  A Toastmasters meeting should be friendly  and open to listening to your presentation.  This kind of audience is the best kind for trying out new material and getting evaluations of your speech skills.

Other friendly audiences are likely to be ones where your topic is perceived as valuable and maybe even worth paying to hear.

The other end of the spectrum is the antagonistic audience.  I’m recording this podcast in 2016, possibly the year of the most antagonistic political campaigns of my life.  It almost feels like some people are making disruption of public speakers into a sport.  College campuses see speakers disinvited to events or when a speaker comes, a variety of people might show up to interrupt or shut down the presentation.  Antagonistic audiences will challenge your speaking skills with heckling and perhaps even join you on the stage.

Between those two is the audience you probably want to reach to inform or persuade.  Your presentation skills will have the most influence with them.

Research Citations in Speech

How do you make a citation in a speech?*  It can sound awkward if you’re not prepared.

“According to…” is a common way to add a citation to a speech.  It’s smooth and simple when you’re citing a person such as an author or an expert.

What if you’re citing the expert’s report?  Trickier, but still can be done with a quick mention of the publication – if it’s printed.  If you find the information on the internet,

If you find the information on the internet, you may have a problem.  You’ve got to use a credible source  (How to find a reliable website may help) but if you’re quoting something from Huffington Post or Wikipedia, see if you can find the original source.  Wiki usually has a link to its sources (yes, you have to check those too) but Huffington Post, while it often posts reprints, does sometimes print original material.  You need to be careful because you don’t want to lose your credibility with your audience.

Credibility – Incredibly Easy to Lose

The Carrot Suppression Conspiracy?  Completely false.  I made it up.  But here are some links to some of the things I talked about in the podcast.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson misquotes George W. Bush about 9/11

Malone University President Resigns over Plagiarism 

It’s your reputation on the line here.  Protect your good name by treating sources carefully and reliably reporting them in your presentation.

*Handouts

If you are using handouts, you might be able to say, “Please see my handout for my research, sources, and citations.”

If you’re giving a speech with a handout in a Toastmasters meeting, ask the club sergeant-at-arms to assist you if you decide not to have the material on the audience’s seats or on the table before the meeting starts.  The sergeant-at-arms can distribute your handouts during your presentation and make sure that everyone gets one.

Speech Contests

It’s almost always speech contest season with Toastmasters.  If you don’t want to compete, there are plenty of other tasks that a speech contest requires.  Talk to your club president to find out who is serving as the Contest Chair and volunteer to help.

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Is Mona Lisa Smiling? The Power of Vocal Variety

Vocal Variety may be the easiest way to judge a public speaker – and the hardest skill to develop well.  It’s all too easy to get overly dramatic vocal varietywith voices.  We end up sounding like cartoon characters.  Creating subtle characters using our voices demonstrates mastery of public speaking, which is why we have to struggle to work for it.

Mona Lisa stands as possibly the greatest piece of art ever created by man.  The portrait is known throughout the world, seen by millions every year.  But the question is never settled – is she smiling?  When we don’t use good vocal variety in our speeches, we leave our audience with questions about our emotions and what we expect them to do after our speeches.  Leonardo may have wanted to be obscure – we don’t!

The Values of Vocal Variety

The Competent Communicator lists six values to speaking.  No one value of more important than the others.  We tend to place more emphasis on the power of volume and the authority of
the-values-of-vocal-varietya deep voice.  We need to understand that these values exist on a continuum – we don’t just have either loud or low or fast.  When we speak, we have a blend of the different values.  That blend changes with almost every sentence we speak.

Instead of thinking of speech values as an either/or option, it’s smarter to think of them like a color wheel.  The shades create interest and convey emotion.  In the end,  vocal variety helps the audience to understand the need for the action the speaker is calling them to take.

Like the Mona Lisa, there are techniques we can develop to create masterpieces with our medium – our voices.  Learning to master our voices starts with understanding character.

Character = Nature

Our task as communicators is to understand the nature of the material we are to convey and find the most effective way to make our audience understand it.  Relating this material to things that the audience already knows and understands speeds that process.  By using evocative imagery, expressive body language, and emotional vocal variety, master communicators have learned from storytellers some techniques that work.  We may have a dry technical report to give, full of facts leading to an unpleasant conclusion.  But by using vocal variety, this kind of speech doesn’t have to be a dreary recitation of numbers and bad news.  It can be inspirational, it can be fun.  It requires creativity, preparation, and vocal variety.

Stage Fright and the Voice

Ways to Manage the Stage Fright Voice

  1.  Drink an hour before your presentation
  2. Eat a green apple before you speak
  3. Identify when breathing becomes difficult and insert cues to yourself to breathe.

Timer and Grammarian

Many Toastmasters find they’re asked to fill these roles when they’ve first joined their clubs.  These are ideal roles to start with because they require the new Toastmaster to pay attention to timing and to how people speak.  Recognizing the limitations of time is a critical skill as a speaker.  Learning to listen and constructively find ways to help others improve will move a new Toastmaster along quicker than just speaking.  Like being an evaluator, paying close attention to other people drills the lessons down deep into the new Toastmasters before they’re even aware of learning the lesson.

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Dive into Body Language: Project 5

The fifth project in the Competent Communicator Manual focuses on body language.body language

What exactly is body language?  In general, it’s the non-verbal messages from a speaker to the audience, including deliberate gestures and facial movements, and involuntary and spontaneous actions.

Studies have shown that body language has great credibility with the audience than the words of the speaker’s message and sometimes, even more than the speaker’s facial expressions.  That’s why it’s crucial to develop good effective stage presence with you

  • stage space
  • body and hands
  • face

to strengthen the impact of your message with your audience.

Is It a Lectern or a Podium?

Let’s get the terminology silliness out of the way.  You step up onto a podium.  A lectern is where you would place your notes, or worse, lean on during your speech.  Let’s just call it the stage where you’ll give your speech.  This area may be very small – just the space behind the lectern if you’re speaking as a keynote at a formal affair.  In a more informal event, you may have a larger stage where you have more freedom to move.

Using as much of the stage as you can gives you more contact with your audience.  It extends your presence, moves you closer to them to make more intimate eye contact and perhaps physical contact.  When you’re comfortable doing so, move out from behind the lectern.

This will mean leaving notes behind.

Are you ready for that yet? Try it!  You’ll discover that you’re far better than you think you are and that however much you fear going without notes, the freedom from the lectern gives you a new relationship with your audience.

Body Language: Gestures

You’ll see a lot of people start with their hands clasped in front, varying from low to high. Why shouldn’t you do this?

It pulls your shoulders forward and reduces your lung capacity just enough that you can’t take that big first breath. Shoulders back. Chest up and full. You can’t do it well if you’ve got your hands clasped in front of you.

Shoulders back. Chest up and full. You can’t do it well if you’ve got your hands clasped in front of you. The other reason is that position looks worried or anxious. Unless you want to convey that emotion as part of your introduction, you probably want to start out as assured and confident. Hands comfortably hanging at your sides show that.

Politicians use the classic flat palm, extended flat-palmlocked fingers gesture instead of pointing a finger, which could look like they’re accusing someone or calling someone out.  It’s a classic, if boring, gesture.  There are plenty of other gestures out there that a speaker can use.  A good evaluator can help you determine which ones work for you.  You can also watch other speakers and what they use that you might want to put into your speeches in the future.

Body Language:  Facial Features

Smile genuinely.  Don’t fake it.  But you can learn how to smile honestly while you speak.  Best-selling author Andy Andrews has a blog post that explains the technique to learn to smile and speak.  http://www.andyandrews.com/how-to-smile-while-you-talk/ 

Don’t worry about feeling silly while you practice.  Within a short time, you’ll find that you’ll smile and talk naturally.  The contrast of your smile and when you change to a passionate gaze will then be stronger and convey powerfully to your audience the intensity of your feelings about your subject.  Instead of using words, now your face showing your audience your message.

Don’t worry if you’re not over your stage fright yet.  It can take more time and more speeches.  One thing that can help is if you start participating in Table Topics.  Impromptu speaking will be the one application of Toastmasters that you will use every day of your life.  None of us have everything that we say scripted out for us.  The odd meeting in the corridor, in the elevator, in the grocery store – we never know when we’ll have the opportunity of the lifetime on a couch instead of on a stage.  Table Topics prepares us for those unprepared moments.  Have you stepped up as Table Topics Master or Table Topics Leader in your club meeting yet?  If you’re struggling with ideas, there are apps available for you to download to your smartphone to help you.

Apple:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/toastmaster-table-topics/id888937799?mt=8
Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mcwilliams.TableTopicsApp&hl=en

Many clubs also have decks of cards that have questions you can ask.  Talk to your club’s sergeant at arms to see if your club has them available.

Thanks to our sponsor Toastmasters District 10.

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Find Your Audience: The Sweet Spot

Your Audience Sets the Tone of Your Speech

find your audience's sweet spotIt’s a mistake to think that you alone as the speaker decide what you get to say and how you’re going to say it.  Communication only happens when there are a speaker and an audience.  You have to consider them first, even before your message.  The audience will set the parameters of the words you choose and the techniques you use to convey your message.

The audience is why you’re speaking.  You’re there to serve the audience, not your message.  I think that’s where speakers often go awry in their passion to convert or to persuade.  When we forget that our message is nothing when people aren’t the primary consideration in our presentations.  The best example of this is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s most excellent speech known as I Have a Dream, given at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  King’s focus is on humans and serving them with his message.  That’s why this speech is recognized as the best speech of the 20th century in the United States.

Was his speech above the audience?  No.  Was it challenging his audience?  Yes.  That’s the exact spot a speaker needs to aim for when crafting a speech.

Civil discourse is becoming anything but anymore.  Political discussion seems to be following the way of comedians with the increased use of four letter words.

Should we be using these words in our speeches?

It’s a risky gambit.  The key isn’t should or shouldn’t we use these words, but how will our audience respond?  Communication isn’t a one-way flow of words – it requires both a speaker and a listener.  Without an audience, there is no communication.  If the audience shuts down because of our word choices, be it profane, vulgar, or jargon, we stop the flow of communication and end our effectiveness as speakers.

Your Toastmasters Audience

This is the point where we often see new Toastmasters start to struggle.  They can’t think of another speech topic.

The problem isn’t they can’t think of another topic, it’s that they’ve talked themselves out of all of the others they’ve thought of.

We’re here to learn to speak and to listen.  Talk about anything that you’re passionate about and we’ll listen.  Don’t toss your ideas – develop them.  Find a way to present that idea with a good introduction, an informative body and a strong conclusion – and we’ll be delighted to listen.  Passion will make even a topic I’m not interested in more intriguing and compelling.  You may even find a way to make golf interesting to me!  We’ll never know until you try.  Talk to your mentor about your ideas.  They can help you find ways to make your topic work.

Don’t give up now.  It’s all too easy to quit right now.  You’ve barely begun to learn how to improve your speaking.  Are you getting discouraged because you’re very aware of what you’re doing wrong?  Now it’s time to start practicing what to do better.

One of the best ways to improve your speaking is to be a speech evaluator in a club meeting.  Nothing will help you focus better on speaking skills than to have to intently listen to someone else’s speech and give them points of growth.  I’ve discovered that the points of growth I see are most frequently the points of growth that I need to apply to my own speaking.  Funny how that works!  Sign up on your club agenda as a speech evaluator and be sure to give your Competent Leadership manual to someone for them to evaluate you and give you credit for filling the role.

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Project 3: What's Your Purpose?

What’s your Speech Purpose?speech purpose

There are 4 main reasons to give a speech:

  • to inform
  • to inspire
  • to entertain
  • to call to action.

By knowing your speech purpose, you’ll be able to limit your topic and exclude material that’s not specific to your speech.    Often, this will help you decide what to include and what to exclude from your presentation.  No matter how funny the joke you heard last night was, you have to decide if it fits into your speech.  As your audience is giving you the time (and time equals money) and attention, they expect value in return.  Your task is to honor them.

Stage Fright

Do you know how many times I had to rerecord “International Astronomical Union” for this podcast?*

This is the kind of thing that makes you get more nervous – repeating an error just drills the bad into your head instead of the good.  Practice the tough lines several times before you go onstage.  If you get it wrong, don’t make a big issue out of it, or make fun of yourself, or apologize.  Just keep moving along.  This minimizes your chances of getting more negative reinforcement.

Stage fright is what we call the negative symptoms our bodies respond with to stress.  These responses can be channeled into positive ways.  You can take that energy and put it into your voice or body movements to create more interest in your speech.  You can’t really ignore it, but you can learn to manage it.  The more opportunities you take to get on stage, the more you’ll gain control of your emotional physical reactions.

Competent Leadership Manual

When you join Toastmasters, you’ll be given two different manuals.  The first – the Competent Communicator Manual – covers the 10 speech projects you’ll do in the meetings.  The other book – the Competent Leadership Manual – will introduce you to the various roles in the Toastmasters meetings, including speaker, timer, grammarian and ah-counter (in many clubs, these roles are combined), evaluator, meeting toastmaster and general evaluator.

*For the record:  3.

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Organize Your Speech… Backwards?

When you have to write a speech, it pays to organize your writing backwards. Consider your goal first and write the conclusion, then the rest of the speech.

However you felt about your first speech, don’t wait to do your second.

You may feel like you bombed. You may have gone over time, under time, mumbled, wanted to vomit, couldn’t breathe, had the shakes… Stage fright.  But don’t wait.  Do your next speech as soon as you can get on the schedule.  If you wait, you’re more likely to work up a worse case of nerves for the next speech.

How to Organize Your Speechorganize your speech backwards

Start at the end.  What do you want the audience to do?

By starting at the end, you’ll prevent three critical problems:

  1. You’ll keep on track as you’re writing your speech.
  2. You’ll have a strong ending that can motivate your audience to act
  3. You’ll find your introduction practically writes itself.

To organize a speech, determine your topic and what format will inform your audience.  Stories are best chronologically, but material with lots of numbers may be better presented in related groups or categories.  You’ll develop the ability to determine if you’re going to do a comparison or a straight narrative with time and experience.    The key with this speech is less about the material, more about the methods of presenting it.  You don’t have to dive deep into the library or Google for material to organize – the more specific you are, the easier a speech is to write.  Consider your audience’s expertise and organize the material at their level.

Organize Your Speech to Speed Up Your Speech Writing

When you have lots of material to cover, having a plan will make your writing simpler and quicker.  Organize your material in only three categories.  If you have more than three, eliminate the excess.  A five to seven-minute speech doesn’t give you enough time to cover more material effectively.  Be very choosy and deliberate in the decision-making process.  It’s easier to add material if you’re short than it is to edit it out later.  That sounds backward, but it’s often true.  You’ll practice and practice, trying to cut the time down but all you’ll do is end up going too fast.

The Introduction Writes Itself

A well-organized, backward-written speech will probably inspire a good introduction.  You’ll want something that will give the listeners a good idea of your topic and your purpose, but you don’t want to be boring and tell them what you’re going to tell them.  Try for some mystery!  Try to whet their appetite with a good story or question before you begin the body of your speech.

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Breaking the Ice: The Ice Breaker Speech

The first speech you’ll give in Toastmasters in the Ice Breaker, a speech about yourself. What do you want us to know about you?

Whose Ice Are We Breaking?how to write an ice breaker speech

The first speech you give is the Ice Breaker, a speech about yourself.

Start in the Middle

What’s your story?  Don’t worry about the introduction or the conclusion until you know what you want to say in your ice breaker.  Once you determine the two or three things you want to focus on, then you can perhaps find a personal story that fits into the speech framework. By using a story, you can then write the end of your speech by wrapping up your story, and then write the beginning of your speech with the opening of the story.

Tell Us a Story in your Ice Breaker

What story do you want to tell us?  Is it a personal history?  Is it your career path?  Is it what brought you to Toastmasters?  We’re good with any of them.  By building and using a story, you can create an effective opening and closing to your speech.

Don’t forget your speech introduction for the meeting toastmaster.

This is a courtesy given to the meeting toastmaster.  The toastmaster is expected to give you an introduction that will prepare the audience for your speech.  You wouldn’t want a humorous introduction for an emotional presentation, would you?  The only way for a toastmaster to know how to introduce you is to have a written intro in hand.

The toastmaster needs to know how to say your name – especially if it’s difficult to say based on the spelling.  (We know who we are – our names are always mangled!)  You should also give the name of the manual and the project number with the project title.  This helps not only your evaluator (who will have your manual for the evaluation) but the rest of the club to know what you’re trying to accomplish.  I have a timing tear off on the bottom of my intro that I give to the timer, especially if the timing isn’t the standard 5-7 minutes.

speech introduction formUse this button to see the PDF versions of my Speech Introduction Forms.

 

 

 

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Want to Improve Your Public Speaking? Consider Toastmasters.

Human usually learn to talk by the age of 3, so why do we also learn a fear of public speaking? If this describes you, then maybe Toastmasters is for you.

What Is Toastmasters?Toastmasters 101 Podcast Competent Communicator Public Speaking

Toastmasters is an international organization that teaches and supports public speaking and leadership skills.

Why is public speaking important?

At some point, whether it’s nurture or nature, people develop a fear of public speaking.  Why?

Do you want to develop public speaking and leadership skills?

Then what you’re looking for may be Toastmasters.

Toastmasters has developed a method to help you overcome those fears.  Over 90 years, Toastmasters has refined a method that can help you as quickly as you want to go.  You will get a manual called the Competent Communicator with 10 projects in it.  Each of those projects is a speech you will prepare and give at a club meeting, and then you will receive an evaluation of your presentation before the end of the meeting.

Surprisingly, one of the most effective ways to improve your speaking…

Public Speaking Leads to Leadership

Communication skills may be called the foundation of leading. If you want to be a leader, you must develop communication skills.

Since communication and leadership are so intertwined, Toastmasters provides leadership training.

If you’re ready to come and explore your future, you can find a local club by going to Toastmasters.org and clicking on the Find A Club button.  You’ll be welcome to join us.

Thanks for joining us on Toastmasters101.  We’ll be focusing on every project in the Competent Communicator manual in our future podcasts.  Instead of repeating what’s in the manual, we’ll focus on other insights into the projects.  Our next podcast – Breaking the Ice – the first speech!  Talk about myself?  What should I say? We’ll give you a few suggestions how to put that first speech together.

If you like our podcast, would you mind going to iTunes and giving us an evaluation (aka rating)?  We’d appreciate hearing from you as we talk public speaking and leadership.

Our music is from
Cool Blast Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/