Ryan McLean : Slightly Unconventional

#19 Helping Ben Gabin Make Money Online – Mon 6th July 2015

iniartworksmallTeacher and tutor Ben Gabin interviews me and asks me about how I make money online and how he can apply that to his life.

Ryan: Hey, man. How’s it going?

Ben: Hey, Ryan. How’s it going, dude?

Ryan: Yeah, good!

Ben: Awesome!

Ryan: Nice to see your face and meet you.

Ben: Yeah. Can you see me okay?

Ryan: Yeah, yeah. I can see you good.

Ryan: Hey, guys. Ryan here from TeachSpeaking.com, helping you guys learn a better way to teach public speaking. And today, I’ve got with me Ben Gabin, who is a teacher and a tutor and he’s doing, during the summer holidays in the US, he’s teaching public speaking at camp.

And so we’ve got Ben on today to learn about how to engage these kids in the classroom. How to engage them with public speaking; how do we not scare the bejesus out of them and just scare them away from public speaking and how do we create that great environment?

Ben is, as I said, a teacher during the day and then also runs his own tutoring company called Circles Tutoring, which you guys can find at CirclesTutoring.com.

Hey Ben, great to have you on today.

Ben: Thank you, Ryan. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Ryan: Why don’t you start by telling us about how you got yourself in this situation where you’re teaching kids at summer camp and what are you teaching? What’s your day look like in terms of the program you’re running?

Ben: Sure. Sure, sure, sure. I’ve always been passionate about public speaking. Growing up, I did a lot of work with Toastmasters and I’m always looking for opportunities to teach people how to be more successful in life. I started working for a tutoring for a company in Raleigh, North Carolina about 3 years ago and they were actually the company that hooked me up with this gig and what I do – this summer, I’m actually teaching rising 9th graders how to speak publicly. So, the camps are setup for – it’s 1 week long and it’s 3 hours a day. So, all in all, I’m teaching public speaking to these kids for 15 hours. So that’s essentially how the camps are set up.

Ryan: And are these kids – is this like a public speaking camp the kids are going to learn public speaking or is this like a general summer camp and public speaking’s just a part of it?

Ben: Got you. So, this particular camp, is all about public speaking. The way that I created the camp is they’re going learn confidence skills through public speaking, through improvisational comedy and freestyle rap and public speaking is a huge part of what I teach these kids.

Ryan: Okay. This sounds like a bit of fun. I just want to get the context first of how these kids end up in this situation. Do the kids, do they kind of go, “I want to learn about public speaking. Hey, mum, dad, here’s this camp.” or do their parents go, “You need to learn about public speaking. I’m sending you to this camp.” And they’re like, “No!”

Ben: It’s so funny because at the end of the last camp I taught, I asked the kids how they ended up there. And they said that their parents signed them up for it.

Ryan: Alright.

Ben: I was like, “How much did you know what you were getting into?” And they said, “I really don’t know anything, my parents thought this would be a good idea for me. So that’s why I showed up.”

Ryan: Okay. And these kids are about 14, 15 years old?

Ben: Yeah. All I the kids I taught at the last camp were rising 9th graders.

Ryan: Is a rising 9th grader, is that someone who’s about to go into 9th grade?

Ben: Exactly. Yeah.

Ryan: Yeah. We don’t have that terminology here in Australia.

Ben: Got you, got you.

Ryan: I think that’s good for people to understand because they understand the context of these kids are going into it. Their parents signed them up or something that they haven’t really actively chosen to do like people do when they go to Toastmasters.

I think a lot of teachers who are in the situation where they’re teaching kids, a lot of kids who are learning public speaking it’ll kind of be — I don’t want to say forced upon them — but it’s kind of a situation that they haven’t really actively pursued. And so I think that’s a good context to start with because that’s the context most people are going to be in when they’re teaching this.

Let’s talk about your program. What do we do for those 5 days that is 3 hours a day? What kind of process do you take people through? We’ll start there.

Ben: Sure. So, first of all, it’s really important to get what you just said, Ryan. Because the kids are coming in to this camp, they’re probably terrified. They don’t want to speak publicly, for the most part. Some of them do. As a teacher, it’s really important to understand that because you need to be able to relate to the kids.

With that in mind, the first thing that I focus on is creating an environment where the kids feel safe and where the kids feel like they could relate to one another as classmates. So, I do a bunch of different icebreaker activities so that the kids begin to feel comfortable in that environment.

Ryan: Okay. Let’s dive in to that more. One of the biggest things that really irks me and annoys me about the way public speaking is taught in schools or in general is that we don’t make people feel comfortable. We don’t make people feel safe. For myself, personally, when I got taught public speaking in school, it was, we sat down and we watched the best speeches of all time. You know, Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream. And then we would analyse this speech and we would look at, okay, here’s how he did his pauses and here’s how he used stories and emphasis and all this stuff. And we would just study it and that was it. And then, they’d be like, “Alright, go away, write a speech, come back and speak and we’re going to test you on it.”

So you’re in front of everyone, it’s the first time you’re ever speaking and you’re getting tested on it and it strikes fear into the heart of many. So, what do you do in those opening hours with those icebreakers and stuff to make people feel comfortable and not scared?

Ben: Sure, sure. So, I’m in the process of getting my actual teaching degree from a school called University of North Carolina Asheville and I have some really amazing professors there that have shared some specific icebreakers with me that I’ve used at my camp that worked very well. One of them is this. So, you get hard paper. Like, this is not hard paper but it’s kind of flimsy but if this were harder, you fold it hotdog style, like this. And you have the kids write their name, their first name on both sides of it. And then you pass out crayons or some sort of colouring tool and you have the kids write on there, things that they like to do for fun.

Now, kids at this age, some things that are very important to them are sports, musical instruments, gaming. So, as you’re introducing the activity, you can say something like that. You can say, “If any of you play sports or play musical instruments or if you like video games, feel free to write those on your name card.” That’s the first thing that happens when kids walk into class. I greet them, they come in, I say, “Alright everybody, grab your name tag, write your name and start colouring things that you like about your life, things that you do for fun.” And so, it sort of dissipates all that nervous energy right from the get go and the kids are just involved in this task of creating this name tag.

And then what I’ll do, Ryan, is I’ll — and I play around with this but at the last camp, I had the kids introduce somebody else just by looking at that persons name tag. They have no idea who that person is except for these things that they draw in there. So, I had some fun with it and I said, “Just going off that stuff, make that person sound like a superstar. Like they’re super famous.” And I used a girl as an example because she walked in with a shirt and the shirt said “Fallout Boy” on it. Are you familiar with that band?

Ryan: I’ve heard the band name, yeah. I’m not super familiar with it but I know it’s a band.

Ben: Okay, cool. So I was like, “Alright guys, this is how I want you to do this.” I’ll just refer to this girl as “Jessica” to keep her name confidential. But I was like, “Alright you guys, Jessica is wearing a Fallout Boy shirt so she’s a member of Fallout Boy. She’s amazing. On her little name tent, she drew a violin. So, clearly, she’s the lead violin player for this band. She’s extraordinary!” And I just went on and on and just had some fun with it. Then I had the other kids do that for each other and I noticed that they were more restrained that I was. They kind of took the pictures literally and they were like, “Okay, this is Bryan and he likes to eat pizza.” Because there was a picture of pizza on his tent.

That, for me, was a really sort of like non-threatening way to just get the kids talking. In Toastmasters, the first speech you make is about yourself, right? And for me, that’s the most terrifying thing to talk about. Right?

Ryan: Yeah, totally.

Ben: If you’re introducing someone else, it’s like, whatever. You know what I mean? So that’s one example of an icebreaker that I use.

Ryan: Yeah. I really like the idea of focusing the attention off the speaker when you’re starting to teach public speaking to people. Because you’re just so nervous about all the attention being on you. People have done studies to say that it’s a psychological thing, because it would have been risky when we were cavemen to have all the attention on you because you might get beat up or something. To take the attention and to shift it to someone else through an activity like that. Talking about someone that you don’t know, make it funny. Because if you get up, all the attention on you and you have to talk about you, it’s a pretty stressful situation to be in.

Ben: That’s right on. The other thing I didn’t do is I didn’t make them stand up and speak. At that first activity, we were just sitting down and that made it easier for them.

Ryan: Did you just get the person’s name card next to you or how did the shuffling work?

Ben: Yeah. I would just say, “Okay, you go ahead and introduce this person over here.” It’s just random.

Ryan: [no audio 10:18]

Ben: In this class, there 6. So, it’s a pretty small class.

Ryan: Yeah. So that’s a good way to start as well because it’s just small groups of people.

Ben: Yeah.

Ryan: Yeah. So what other icebreakers did you do? Because that icebreaker is genius, I think.

Ben: I like it a lot. The other one works really well at having the kids start to interact with each other. I call this “Human Bingo”. And what you do is — and I kind of —

Ryan: I’m writing this down.

Ben: They have their name tent and then I say, “Okay, you guys, open up your name tag to the blank side and I want you to make a giant tic-tac-toe board on here.” So, you know, they make this giant tic-tac-toe board that looks something like this. And then, in each of these squares, I have them write something different. Like I’ll write — on the board, I’ll say, “has two dogs” and then they have to write “has two dogs”. And then here, I’ll write something like, “loves to read”. And I’ll go —

Ryan: Do you write all these options on the board and then they need to choose from the different options?

Ben: No. I write them on the board and they copy into their squares exactly what I’m writing.

Ryan: Okay. So you do the big tic-tac-toe board on your board, as a teacher, and you write all the options on the thing so they just copy it word for word, basically.

Ben: Copy it word for word and then at that point, I say, “Alright, you guys, we’re going to play Bingo now. And you’re going to go around and meet other people in the class and you need to figure out who’s name goes into what square on the Bingo board.” And you’re trying to get a Bingo. So you’re going around and you’re asking your classmates, “okay, you guys, who has two dogs?” “Who loves to read?” “Who has a name for their car?” Or whatever, whatever I create from the get go. And everyone knows Bingo. They know they have to get a line across the board. So I say, “Alright, and you have to get up when I say, ‘Go’ and do this activity.” So I’ll say, “Go!” And they stand up and they go around and they start talking to each other and getting to know one another and asking them questions that they wouldn’t normally ask. You know, like, who asks people, “Hey Ryan, do you have more than two dogs?” It gets them out of their comfort zone immediately but in a way that’s fun. Because they’re trying to win a Bingo game and they know it’s just a silly thing.

Ryan: And do they win prizes if they win? Do you bring prizes to give to them?

Ben: No. I don’t like to motivate people with prizes.

Ryan: You just like the internal motivation, do you?

Ben: Yeah. Specially early on in the camp. You know, they’re just excited.

Ryan: So how do you find out who has two dogs and this sort of information to make sure that it works? Because what if you go in and no one has dogs, specially with only 6 people.

Ben: Sometimes that happens. And what happens is, that means that they’ve spoken to every person. So that’s a really good thing. And then sometimes they’ll say, “Oh, you know what, Mr. Gabin, I couldn’t find who has two dogs.” And I’ll say, “Alright, let’s change it to ‘who likes to play video games'” or whatever.

Ryan: Okay. Yeah, cool. So it’s just general things that you think there’s a good chance that it might happen.

Ben: Yeah. And you can say things about pop culture, like, “Who’s a fan of Justin Bieber or Britney Spears?” or “Who hates Justin Bieber?” and the kids get all riled up about that.

Ryan: [no audio 13:53] the energy across the board and then just to make people really feel comfortable. And then what happens after that? How do you progress them through?

Ben: Yeah. I was thinking about this. There are four ways that we teach public speaking. There’s the traditional public speaking, where you write out your speech and you practice it and you get up and present. That’s one thing that we focus on in camp. And then, the other three things are all spontaneous ways of speaking. And that’s the improvisation comedy, the freestyle rap and impromptu speaking.

One thing we did for impromptu speaking in the last camp is I gave everybody this yellow sheet of paper and I had them write down 10 topics, 10 random topics. And they wrote down a bunch of random things. Like, “orange” or “tree”. And then I took out those slips of paper and I brought them up to the table up front and the kids would have to come up and they grab one of these topics and they’d either have to speak on that topic or we play one of the games that you mentioned on your website about the 15 Public Speaking Games.

Ryan: Yeah. Which one? Which game?

Ben: Yeah! Oh, my God, We did a bunch of them. We did “Connecting the Two Nouns”.

Ryan: Yeah, I love that game.

Ben: We did the “Continuous Story” one. Which is also right from improv comedy. We did–

Ryan: How did the continuous story go? For those of you who don’t know, this is when one kid gets up and starts a story and then they move it on to the next kid, they need to continue it. And basically you go around the room and you get like a sentence or two each.

Ben: They loved Continuous Story.

Ryan: Yeah? That was funny?

Ben: That was one of the hits. Yeah! So, what I discovered through teaching this camp, Ryan, is the kids feel so much more comfortable when they’re up in front of class with other people.

Like, if they’re on stage with at least one more person, they’re so much more comfortable up there and confident and they say things they wouldn’t normally say. And that was one of my biggest take-aways. I was like, “Wow, maybe I should start with these activities where there are more people and they gradually, as camp goes, sort of like whittle down so that at the end, they’re up there by themselves, speaking.”

Ryan: Yeah, I think that’s a great idea. I run a bunch of different websites and one of them is on property investing in Australia. And so, most of the people who invest in property, they’re not people that are eccentric and who want to get up and speak and stuff like that. So if I want people to learn from people and get them to contribute to my site or learn from their knowledge, generally, people are pretty scared to speak. Because when I say, “Can we talk about this and do like a video?” But then when it comes to an interview, almost everyone is happy to do that. And to sit down when you’ve got two people there, someone’s asking you questions and you just responding like a conversation. It’s so much easier for people than being by themselves.

So, I really like your idea of you start with a group and you slowly make it smaller and smaller groups until they’re by themselves. I’ve just noticed that situation in my job, where people aren’t happy to speak by themselves but they’re more than happy to give an interview.

Ben: Yeah. That’s really interesting and I think that’s really important to recognise as a public speaking teacher. You, on your website, gave this amazing homework assignment to record yourself speaking in a camera for 5 minutes and then watch yourself doing that. And initially, I was going to actually bring a video camera to class and record the kids speaking. A lot of teachers would do that. I don’t know what that’s like for the kids but I created the homework assignment in a way to have them feel more comfortable. I said, “Alright, you guys, tonight, go home and this is your assignment, record yourself speaking in the camera. Don’t let anybody else see you.

This is your thing. And then once you’ve done it, look and listen to yourself.” I think one person did it the first night and they came back and I was like, “You guys, what’s happening here?” I’m like, “Come on, this is serious!” I’m like, “Raise your hand if you’re not going to do this assignment.” I don’t know if I said that or if I said, “Alright, who’s doing it this time?” And they all raised their hand. And so, they came back the next day and every single one of them had done the homework assignment.

And so, I think it’s important. That homework assignment is amazing and I think you should give it to them and let them do it privately so they’re not intimidated by it.

Ryan: Yeah. The whole goal with that assignment is to get used to yourself. And so, I think if you had a teacher come in to class and say, “Right, you’re going to speak and we’re going to film you and then we’re going to watch it back and criticise you and tell you how you went wrong and could have done better.” Dude, that’s even scarier than getting up in front of the class and just speaking.

The whole goal is to have the privacy of your own room, you record yourself, no one’s watching. Your parents aren’t there, no one’s there. And then you watch it back. Not with the goal to criticise yourself and say, “Well, how can I be a better speaker?” But just to say, “This is what I look like, this what I sound like to other people.” And the first time you watch it back, you’re like… Oh, you’re just shuddering and cringing! And it’s just horrible! But as you get used to yourself, you realise, “Oh, I don’t sound like an idiot. It’s okay.”

Ben: Yeah. One piece of advise I have for teachers that teach public speaking is to do the homework assignment yourself. Because then you’re going to be able to relate to the kids a lot better who are taking it on. You know, like, I found myself, I wanted to be in my own isolated space and I didn’t want anybody to hear me. So, I think it’s important that you go through it yourself so that you can understand the kids better.

Ryan: Yeah. And I used to have trouble because I work from home. I’ve got 3 kids and my wife at home. I could never record when anyone was in the house. I used to just have them all out of the house. I would, like, send my wife away with the kids or something so I could record a video because I didn’t want them overhearing or anything like that. Just one of that complete [inaudible 20:44]. Or I would go in my car and I would go for a drive and I would park in some secluded spot and I would do it there. If someone drove past, I would just get really scared. Or if someone walked past, I was like, hide in my car.

So I think doing it yourself, then you can understand what these kids are going through. I think it’s pretty important.

Ben: Yeah.

Ryan: So you did a lot of games, obviously. Was that just in the beginning or throughout the whole course, you continued to do games?

Ben: Throughout the whole camp, I did games. The games were the best part of the camp. Because, like you said at the beginning of our conversation, we need to keep these kids busy. It’s 15 hours, you know. They always have to be either going up to speak in front of people or there’s something to say about the excitement. Like, if they know they’re in line to get up and speak in front of people, they’re going to be paying attention. Classroom discipline is actually extremely easy when you’re teaching public speaking.

Ryan: Just because there is that engagement factor that they know that they’re going to be in front of people so they need to pay attention and be aware of what’s going on?

Ben: Yeah. And it’s fun to see another person speaking and see what they’re going through. I wouldn’t make the kids speak for long periods of time. Maybe like 1 to 2 minutes. And I think there’s some sort of, like, I don’t know. There’s just something about knowing that you’re next that has you engaged in a different kind of way.

Ryan: On the edge of your seat. I remember in school, I used to always want to go first whenever there was a speaking assignment or anything. Because I remember that nervousness and fear of needing to present. I’m like, “Dude, I’m just going to go first.” And then, I could just sit back and relax and not worry about it.

So, let’s talk about the comedy and then we’ll talk about freestyle rap. Freestyle rap would scare me and so would trying to be funny on purpose. How do you navigate that, how do you create that? Did it work well?

Ben: Sure. So, when I taught freestyle rap, it didn’t go as well as I wanted it to. It kind of backfired. The reason why was this. I started by having the kids do activities where they were rhyming, right off the bat. I think I had kids get in partners and I’d say, “Okay, everybody, the word is ‘bat’. Now, with your partner you have to go back and forth and say words that rhyme with ‘bat’.” So they would say, “cat”, “that”, “fat”, etcetera. And I got home that night, and I was like, “There’s got to be a better way to teach this.” Because the kids weren’t that interested in it. They were kind of turned off by the whole thing. And I came across–

Ryan: It’s a bit too easy, isn’t it? It’s a bit too easy and boring.

Ben: They were actually really challenged by it.

Ryan: Oh! Were they?

Ben: Yeah! And I was surprised! But I think it had more to do with just doing that sort of skill for the first time, I think can be a scary thing. And there’s that peer pressure. So, I was like, “I need to find a way to make this easier for the kids.” And I came across this amazing online course by this guy named Pat Parra, he teaches people how to freestyle rap. And I bought the course and I was like, “Wow!” I actually sampled it originally so I could see what this guy was talking about. And so, check this out. I’m going to give you the basics and I came back the next day and taught this to the kids.

Ryan: Are you going to rap us the basics?

Ben: Maybe after the interview. So, rule number one is don’t worry about rhyming. So, right off the get go, it’s like, “Oh! Thank God, I don’t have to worry about rhyming! Great!” And the second thing is, if you mess up, just keep going. Keep going, keep flowing, pretend like it didn’t happen. So those are the two golden rules that are always in the background as you’re learning how to freestyle rap and then there’s really simple 4-step process that I lead the kids through. And I practice this on a few people since the camp and I taught my dad how to freestyle rap.

Ryan: What’s the process? Teach me. I want to learn this.

Ben: Okay, alright. So, it’s helpful if we have a beat, but it’s okay. So, step number one is you count to four on the beat of the song. It sounds like this; 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4. That’s it, the first step. And so, if people can do that step, and I think that’s a big thing, just opening their mouth and saying, “1-2-3-4”. Then we move on to step two. Are you ready for it?

Ryan: Yeah, yeah. I’m ready.

Ben: Okay. I didn’t hear you count to four so I wasn’t sure.

Ryan: Oh, you want me to count to four?

Ben: Go for it!

Ryan: 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4

Ben: Okay, alright. You got it, you got it.

Ryan: Yes! I can count to four!

Ben: So, the second step is you’re counting to four but you’re doing it in a different rhythmic pattern. So, it might sound something like this; 1-222-223 to the 4 1-111-222-333-4 1-2-3 to the 4 1-111-222-3-4

Ryan: My turn?

Ben: Yeah! Go ahead!

Ryan: 1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4-44444 1-1-1-2-3-4

Ben: You got it! That’s it, that’s it, that’s it, that’s it. And, probably what I would do, when I’m teaching this next, Ryan, is I would stop there for the day. Because that’s kind of like a big leap for people to even say that much. I’d probably say, “Okay, pause on freestyle rap. Let’s do something new.” You know, and then come back to it the next day.

Ryan: Yeah. I think it’s interesting. Like, even going through this interview and knowing that I’m probably going to be embarrassing myself right now, I’m kind of getting a little bit nervous myself. Like, I’m pretty confident and we’re just on camera, there’s no big audience. So, yeah, I think stopping there is great for the first day, definitely.

Ben: Should we go on?

Ryan: Yeah. Let’s go on.

Ben: Okay, great. So, step three is you’re taking something that’s already written; like a book or a magazine or something on the internet and you’re reading that to the beat of the song. And this is where the golden rule number one comes into play about don’t worry about rhyming. I mean, how could you? You’re reading out of a book, right?

So, it goes something like this. Let me pull up–

Ryan: So what song? Do you get a song or is it something that they all know?

Ben: Oh! So, if you go on YouTube and you just type, “freestyle rap instrumental”, there are a ton of songs that come up and you can just play any of those.

Ryan: Okay, cool.

Ben: So, I’m on your website, PublicSpeakingPower.com, Ryan.

Ryan: Yup.

Ben: And I’m going to perform step 3 right now. Alright? And I don’t have a beat so it’s a capella but it goes something like this.

Speech coach tips. Performance enhancing advice for public speaking coaches. Ep 33 ipage r web hosting. Web hosting email and domains. Trusted by millions 1 comment January 25th, 2014. Coaching podcast videos and workshops.

Alright, so that’s how step 3 goes and if you want, I can just roll right into step 4, whatever you…

Ryan: Yeah. Just roll right into step four, man.

Ben: So, step four is you’re telling a story about your day. And you’re remembering the two golden rules; don’t worry about rhyming and just keep going. Okay, so, if I’m telling a story about my day, it might go something like this.

I woke up today you know I had to pray. Why? Because it was a great Sunday. You should listen to what I have to say. Uh, here we go. Put on my shoes, got the good news. I’m so happy and I don’t have the blues. And I got in my car and I drove to Raleigh. Here we go, I didn’t drive in a trolley.

Okay? Whatever! And the fact that you’re not worried about rhyming, gives you that, sort of like, that freedom to just say whatever you want.

Ryan: So, you have an opportunity to rhyme if you can come up with it but you don’t have the pressure to rhyme. Because I know back when I was a kid, I used to try and freestyle rap but then you’d get stuck. You know, like, you say something and then you’re like, “Oh, man! There’s nothing that rhymes with ‘awesome’. Why did I say awesome?”

So, I think, removing that need to rhyme kind of frees you up.

Ben: Exactly.

Ryan: Yeah. So, why did that fall flat? You said it wasn’t as good as you hoped that it would be.

Ben: So, I think the reason for that was I think I went too advanced too early on the kids. Instead of teaching them those two golden rules, we went right into rhyming, immediately. And I think that’s why it backfired.

When I teach this next camp, I’m going to take it very slow. And if I notice the students start to feel nervous, like I sensed you getting a little nervous, I’m just going to pause right there and I’m going to say, “Alright, you guys, that’s it for today.” Maybe I’ll say, “Practice on your own at home and we’ll come back tomorrow.” Or whatever. I think that’s important, is to gauge the nervousness level of the kids, whether it be rhyming or public speaking, because you want them to have fun and feel comfortable when they’re doing things.

Ryan: And what about stand-up comedy? How did that go?

Ben: That went extremely well. And I think the reason for that was you do a lot of activities with partners or with groups of people. So, there are probably about 10, maybe 15 improvisation comedy games that we played. And just the fact that they’re up there with other students playing around and presenting, I think it just made it a whole lot easier for them to public speak.

Ryan: Are these similar games to, you know that show, “Who’s Line Is It Anyway”? Where you give people items and they need to pretend that it is something. Is it those sorts of games, or–?

Ben: So, we did some of that. We played around with — when you take an improvisational comedy class, one of the first things they teach you is  this game called “Yes, And”. And you’re up there with another person and they give you roles. Like, they might say, “Okay, Ryan, you and your partner are ice skaters and you are on Mars right now.”

Okay? And then, “Yes, And” is the game. This is what it’s called. So, you say anything. Like, you might say, “Gosh, I’m noticing that my ice skates are sinking into the planet right now.” And the person next to you — we have a habit as human beings to negate what the other person says. So, instead of something like, “Oh Ryan, that’s so dumb!” or “Oh Ryan, that’s not true.”

The game is “Yes, And” so they have to agree with what you said and then they have to add something on to it. So, they might say, “Yes, Ryan.” and, you know…

Ryan: Yeah, Ben. And I’m so cold in my leotard right now.

Ben: You got the hang of it. So that’s “Yes, And” and they love that game. They were laughing the whole time.

Ryan: Yeah, that’s a good game. That’s a good, fun game.

Ben: Yeah.

Ryan: That’s less pressure, I think, with that game. Because you’re doing it with someone else and, you know, I’ve just got to say one line and then I’m passing the ball and it’s their turn. So I don’t have to keep going for 5 minutes or something like that and they’re going to say something funny, people will be laughing at them as well. So, it does de-pressure the situation.

Ben: Yes, yes, yes.

Ryan: Yeah. So, how did you progress from — like we started out icebreakers, just people introducing each other. In groups, not even standing up and then you’ve got these games where people are working together. How did you then progress into them speaking by themselves and eventually, I guess, towards a written speech.

Ben: So, I had them do different games where they would stand up by themselves. I think on the first day, we were playing the “Connect a Noun” game. And I used that noun generator right from your website. So, right from the get go, they were thrown into that. And I’m trying to think of other games that we played but I had them get up a lot by themselves starting on day one and just talk about something.

Ryan: Yup.

Ben: Yeah.

Ryan: And so, did you move to more formal impromptu speaking at all or was it just all games the whole course?

Ben: We did move into more formal speaking. On the second day, I started teaching them about the components of a speech — the introduction, the body and the conclusion and how to hook the audience’s attention right from the get go — and we practiced that. And we also spent a lot of time talking about credibility. How to make themselves sound credible to the audience. And we talked about how they could either create that for themselves or how to have somebody else introduce them before they even begin speaking. So, we spent a lot of time on introductions and then I had them brainstorm a list of topics that they are experts on.

I was like, “What do you guys already good at? What do you do for fun? What comes naturally to you?”

Ryan: Yup.

Ben: And they made this list of topics and I said something like, “Okay, this is going to be your first speech.” You’re going to talk about this. I think we did a brain dump. I said, “Okay, write down everything you know about this topic.” And they wrote and wrote and wrote and that was the basis for the first actual prepared speech that they did on Wednesday.

Ryan: And then how did that go?

Ben: It went well. It went well. There are so many different components a public speaking teacher could be looking at.

This might be the first time that these kids are doing any public speaking. So, the fact that they’re getting up in front of other people sharing something, that’s awesome! They deserve to be acknowledged for that. I don’t think that it’s necessary to give them any negative feedback or any of the Toastmasters oreo-style feedback right from the beginning. It’s like, no, this kid just got up in front of his classmates and spoke for a minute or two, that’s awesome! So, what I would have the kids do — in fact, for the entire camp — is I would have everybody — or the people that wanted to — say something that they liked about the speech and I would do the same thing. Because, you know, it’s like a week of public speaking camp. These kids don’t need to be torn down.

You know, they’re like, what a great opportunity for them to come out of the camp feeling really positive about themselves.

Ryan: I think the biggest thing that holds people back from public speaking is a lack of confidence. And because public speaking, you get better over time and you get better if you have enough confidence to go again, then you’re going to improve naturally. Even if no one gives you any feedback, you know when you’ve stuffed up or when the audience doesn’t engage.

I really like that. You’re talking about language about that’s the right class dynamic to have. When someone gets up and speaks, they’re applauded for speaking and then they’re encouraged with things that they did well. Because they’re going to be standing there going, “Oh, I know I shouldn’t have said that. That was a bit awkward.” or something like that. So we don’t need to remind them about it. We just encourage them, give them that confidence, especially when they’re kids. To just be confident to go again.

Because they say, a lot of people who have fear of public speaking have a situation in their life where they did some public speaking and it went bad. And they just draw upon that every time they go up to speak. They just remember that moment in time where everyone laughed at them or something happened, something went bad.

But then for a kid to have enough experiences where people are praising them for public speaking, well, then you kind of get excited about it. You kind of get addicted to it, you enjoy the rush of that confidence boost that you get from speaking. So, I think you’re doing the right thing there. I think that’s on the money.

Ben: Yeah, that’s great. I would have the students analyse themselves. After speaking, I had them write a reflection. And I didn’t even read the reflection. I said, “Look, you guys, this is for you and this is how you should write it — I want you to start with what went well about your speech? What did you do well? Start there.” I think it’s so easy to start with the negative so I had them focus on what they did well first and then after that, I said, “Okay, now write the things that you can improve on.” And they did that and they never shared that with anybody. But that was a way for them to de-brief and sort of complete the process for themselves without anybody else really knowing what they thought about it.

Ryan: I’m a massive fan of impromptu speaking. With my videos — and I create a lot of videos for a lot of my websites. Whenever I do a speech, I get a piece of paper and I’ll just do dot points on that piece of paper and then I’ll just speak. So, I’m basically always doing impromptu speaking. I’ve got a rough outline but that’s it and I’m just impromptu speaking.

And then when it comes time when I need to write a more serious speech — usually it’s a sales video or something for me. By doing so much impromptu speaking, you learn what works and what doesn’t work. You learn the structure of a speech almost accidentally by doing impromptu speaking. And so, when it comes time to do a more formal speech, it just happens for you.

Like, I didn’t need to study Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech to know how to give a speech myself. I just needed to speak and just to do it over and over and over again and then you get used to it. You’re like, “Okay, here’s how I can do a better introduction or here’s how I can do that.”

Let’s talk about the written part of it. Did you get the kids at all to do, like, sit down, go home, write a speech and then come back and you’re going to present it? Did you do that at all?

Ben: Yeah. We did do that. I had them, first of all, create an outline for their speech. After they had written down the things that they already knew about their topic. The homework was to create an outline and come back to class the next day basically ready to present the speech.

And what I did was I gave them a little bit of time to get with a partner and share the speech back and forth with a partner. And the partner’s job was to make sure that the introduction was actually interesting. Like, did it engage them? Did it bring them into the speech?

So, that was the main thing I focused on for the first speech. Just sharing your speech with anybody is a great way to practice. So, I think that probably helped them.

Ryan: Yup. Was this on the last day or the second last day that you finally got to this point?

Ben: We did a practice speech on Wednesday and then we did a practice speech on Friday. When I say practice, I mean one that they did the work to prepare for.

Ryan: Yup. Let’s talk about marking systems. Did you have any sort of marking system or was it just really all about — yeah, dude, I love this. I can see you shaking your head. I love the fact that you didn’t do that. Tell me why. Why didn’t you mark the kids? Why didn’t you do that?

Ryan: When I’m looking to learn something, some skill, like scuba diving, the last thing I want is somebody telling me what I’m doing wrong. I just want to put the suit on and jump in the water and be recognised for the things I’m doing right. My experience of life is that that’s just so much of a better way to learn. And it’s fun learning that way. Plus, the fact that the kids didn’t even sign up for the camp themselves. You know what I mean? Like, they not looking for that. So, why would I grade them or mark them in any way?

Ryan: So, what about you as a teacher? How do you know if you’ve run a successful camp or not?

Ben: That’s a good question. Specially with public speaking, it can be a subjective thing. The ideal thing would be to actually record the kids speaking early on and then record them at the end and be able to gauge the improvement. I didn’t do that. What I did instead is I had the kids fill out these surveys of themselves on the first day of camp and on the last day of camp. And the surveys had questions like, “How comfortable are you speaking in front of people? What’s your level of confidence? How at ease with other people? How well do you connect with other people?” And then I measured the improvements at the end of camp and I have the statistics on it but some of these ratings were way off the charts.

100% of people said they had more public speaking knowledge and 83% said that they could freestyle better. It was amazing! I was like, “Wow!” That’s one way to do it and I found that do be effective. I like the thought of doing the video recording as well, before and after. I just haven’t put that into effect yet.

Ryan: Yeah, and that would be nerve wrecking at the start, “We’re going to record you.” I think that would be good for a class that had chosen to be there themselves. Or if you’re coaching someone and they’re like, “yeah, I want to get better at public speaking.” Or if you’re doing more one-to-one tutoring or something like that, I think that would be really effective. I’d be nervous if I was a kid in a group and they’re like, “Right, first activity, we’re going to record you and see how bad you are. So then, towards the end we can compare it.” I understand what you’re trying to get at but, yeah, I think it will be very scary as a kid.

Ben: Sure, for sure.

Ryan: What I wanted to get out of this was how do we engage kids in a classroom? How do we make sure that it’s fun? How do we make them more confident towards the end? And I think we’ve really covered that in this interview. It’s basically, when they get to the class, you just start really easy, start in a group of people, they’re not standing up to speak. Like you said, you start with an activity unrelated. You’re just doing your name tags then you’re going to introduce someone else and icebreakers that aren’t about themselves. And then, slowly progressing through the use of fun games that they’re actually engaged with towards getting to that formal situation.

And I think by then, once you get more confidence, public speaking does become fun. When you start off, it’s not fun at all because you’re just scared. But if you get enough confidence, it does become fun towards the end.

And I bet, throughout that whole process, you were throwing in little bits of education here and there, am I right?

Ben: Absolutely.

Ryan: Like the “theory” of public speaking. Most people would just try and teach public speaking through theory. Like saying, “Here’s how to structure a speech” and stuff like that. But, I guess, you were just throwing it in little bits here and there as it made sense.

Ben: I did. When it came to doing the written speeches, it’s especially helpful to know that type of thing. Just to create an outline, I think, is really important. But overall, Ryan, I really did more games than sticking with that formal public speaking education. And I think that’s why the kids were so successful.

Ryan: Yeah. Obviously you can’t tell now, you’ve only done it a couple of weeks ago. But as they go through life, that’s such a positive public speaking experience for those kids to have in their memory. To say, “This is what public speaking is, public speaking can be fun, it can be with a group of people. It’s something that I enjoy and that I get a benefit out of.” They’re receiving good feedback, they’re laughing with people. It’s such a positive memory to have for them going forward, don’t you think?

Ben: Absolutely, absolutely.

Ryan: Yeah. And so, I think if anyone’s — what were you going to say?

Ben: It’d be fun to check in with these kids years later and see how they’re doing. Maybe they’ll all be the class presidents.

Ryan: Who knows? But even if they’re introverts or something and they don’t end up doing anything serious, even to just know that I created a positive public speaking experience for someone. And that’s going to serve people throughout their lives.

I worked in sales, right, and all the sales people constantly getting up in front of people, doing client calls. I was in pharmaceuticals, we did a lot of trainings of pharmacies and stuff like that. And there were people who were confident are sales people and people who weren’t confident because they’ve had bad past experiences and stuff. Some of those people, I wish they’d been to a camp like yours or something. Where they could just feel positive about it, not stressed at all.

I didn’t know why I ended up enjoying it so much. Because I had so many bad experiences as a kid in public speaking. So many bad experiences.

Ben: You were meant to be teaching this topic to people, that’s why.

Ryan: Yeah. I don’t know, I enjoy it. But thank you so much for coming on. Thank you for teaching us about how to relate to and engage with kids. Let’s talk a bit more before we go. Just about your tutoring company and what you’re doing to help kids, both around the topic of public speaking and schooling.

Ben: Sure, absolutely. So, I have a company that is being created right now. It’s called Circles Tutoring. The website’s up. The purpose of the tutoring company is to really help kids be successful in whatever subject it is that matters to them. I teach Spanish, Ryan, I don’t know if you knew that about me. So, I tutor in Spanish, I do a lot of test-prep work with kids. And, of course, success-oriented skills like public speaking, interviewing, anything in that realm, personal organisation. I’m very much into personal development and I think that if we can teach that to kids at a young age, they’re just going to be amazing and on fire going throughout their lives. So, those are some of the things that I teach at Circles Tutoring.

Ryan: Okay. And you were saying before the interview that you teach globally. So you can teach kids locally if you want or you can teach kids over Skype as well, is that correct?

Ben: That is correct, that is correct. If you go on to the website, you’ll find opportunities to connect with me and I’m happy to tutor anybody, wherever they live in the world.

Ryan: What is tutoring over Skype like? Have you done it much? Is it engaging for kids? Is it alright?

Ben: It’s fun. You need to add an element, as a teacher, of energy and enthusiasm and really be connected with the students so that they’re paying attention to you and not zoning off. You can kind of see when you’re looking at somebody. So, I’ve taught a lot of Spanish via Skype. You’re always looking for ways to draw people in. Yes, it does work if you’re doing it the right way.

Ryan: Okay. If you guys want to get in contact with Ben to hire his tutoring services for Spanish, for public speaking, for basically any topic, then simply go to CirclesTutoring.com and you can get in contact with him over there.

This has been a great deal of fun, I’ve laughed a lot, I’ve learned how to freestyle rap, I’ve learned about games and engaging kids. I really appreciate you coming and sharing your knowledge, Ben. Thanks so much!

Ben: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Ryan: Okay, guys, I’ll be back. I don’t know when I’ll be back but another episode. Until then, keep going out there and keep practicing your speaking.

Ben: One of the things I’ve discovered as a teacher of public speaking is, you know, there’s so much information we want to give to kids. But if we can find a video that’s already been created of somebody teaching that same content, show the video. Show the video because the kids, for whatever reason, they’re so much more interested in the video than they are of you, as the teacher.

For example, if I’m going to teach kids about how to outline a speech. I’m going to put your video on and I’m going to be like, “Alright, you guys, this Ryan McLean. He runs this amazing public speaking website, PublicSpeakingPower.com. He’s going to teach us how to create the outline of a speech today.” And I’m like, lights go off, turn it on and the kids are like watching this thing. Because you’re now this amazing person, right and they’re like. There’s just something about showing videos instead of talking that’s really great.

And then the other thing is, it’s so important for kids to realise that there are things they can do to get the attention off themselves when they’re speaking. Like using props or drawing something on the board or using some sort of visual aid or getting the audience involved. Like, “Hey, Ryan, dude, that’s a cool shirt, man. Where’d you get that thing?” and then all of sudden, you’re not thinking about me, you’re thinking about your shirt. It’s like these different ways for kids to get the attention off themselves. That’s something I teach to them as well that they could use, as crutches, just to feel more relaxed when they’re up there.

Ryan: Yeah. I think that’s good, getting the attention off themselves.

Ben: Okay. So, you want me to tell you which games of yours I used?

Ryan: Yeah.

Ben: Alright.

Ryan: And which ones worked well and what didn’t.

Ben: Oh, dude, I got to share this with you. So, I did the game where we put a funny image up and make something like describe what the image was and the impact it made on their life. As a teacher, make sure that you gather these images beforehand. Because I just went to Google and I typed in —

Ryan: Oh, no! What did you type in?

Ben: It typed in, random image. So, all of these sultry women are showing up with these really inappropriate things. And I had to apologise to the kids two different times. And this is like, day one. I’m like, “Guys, I apologise.” Make sure that you know what the images are beforehand.

Ryan: Yeah, build your own slideshow. Go on Google by yourself, build your own slideshow and then you can flip through that slideshow in class.

Ben: Dude, I was horrified. I was like, “Oh my God!” So let’s see what else we did. We did the Oink Substitution game. I needed a filler activity because I was like, “Oh, God, I need to take the attention off myself and have the kids do something.” So, I was like, “Alright, you guys need to write an imaginary speech. Get with a partner and I’m going to give you an opportunity.” No, they had to write a story and I gave each group 2 nouns from that noun generator website.

And I was like, “Connect these nouns and tell a story.” And then they came up to share it and one person would share half of it, normally. And then the second person, I was like, “Alright, every time you want to say the word ‘I’, say ‘oink’ instead.” And this kid looks at me and he was like, “seriously?” I’m like, “Yeah, do it.” So they did it and it was pretty funny. I didn’t do it for everybody but it worked for that kid.

We did Two Truths and a Lie, which was amazing. That’s a great icebreaker. We actually did that at the beginning of class.

Ryan: Did people work it out? Were people obviously lying when they told the lie?

Ben: No! It was really hard. It was really hard. Because afterwards, we’d go around and we’d say, at each person would say what they thought the lie was and everyone thought it was something else.

Ryan: Yeah, that’s good.

Ben: Yeah. That was a fun game. So those were the ones we played.

Ryan: Yeah. They’re good games. So, note to self, always find your images before class.

Ben: Yes!

Ryan: Don’t go into the Google image search while teaching your class.

Ben: Oh my goodness, yeah.

Ryan: What other games — were there other games that were good that we didn’t talk about in the interview?

Ben: Let me give you some of my improvisational comedy games because some of these are badass as icebreakers and as ways to get the kids public speaking. I wish you were here so I could show you because some of it’s —

There’s a game called, it’s called Knives or Knife Throwing. And you get in a circle with everybody, stand up and I start with the knife. And I throw the knife at somebody. Say I’m throwing it at you. If I throw a knife at you, you have to catch the knife like this and then you throw the knife at somebody else. Throw it back. So you catch it and then you throw it back. So that’s the Knife game, it’s a very non-threatening way to warm up in improvisational comedy.

I have like 20 games. I could send this to you in an email if you want it.

Ryan: Do you have links? Did you find these online? You could always just point me.

Ben: I took a couple of classes and that’s where I learned these games. Here, let me see if I have any on my phone. I’m sure I do. Oh, were you the one that talked about My Friend’s Fictional Life game?

Ryan: Yeah.

Ben: We did that, too! There was this weird statue in the room and I was like, “This is my buddy Jim. He’s amazing, he’s a superstar.” You know, whatever. And then they had to introduce their imaginary friend.

Ryan: I liked your spin on it. Because the way you did the name tags was kind of like a spin on My Friends Fictional Life. Like, you’re introducing someone else but you’re making stuff up about them from the pictures that they drew. That’s a smart way to do it because at least you’re feeding them some sort of information that they can draw off.

Ben: Yes, yes, yes.

Ryan: Creative, especially on the pressure.

Ben: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure. Okay, I’m looking at the improvisational games right now. I showed them a bunch of TEDx videos that were amazing, that worked really well. Do you watch TED? TEDxTalks? I showed them the body language one by that lady, Amy Cutty.

Ryan: Okay. I haven’t seen that one.

Ben: It’s a great video.

Ryan: Yeah, I’ll watch it.

Ben: Okay. Yeah, that’s a great one. And then I had the kids stand in power poses after they watched that and feel differently. So, that was cool.



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