Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Francisco Mahfuz.

Francisco Mahfuz has always loved speaking even before he had anything useful to say. He’s been telling his stories in front of audiences for close to a decade, and even became a national champion of public speaking today. Francisco is a keynote speaker on storytelling and offers presentation coaching to individuals and international organizations.

His book, Bare: A Guide to Brutally Honest Public Speaking, teaches you where ideas come from, and how to find more of them. Seven steps to build your speech, and the WTF approach to start it.

For the full shownotes, click here

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Hello there, the King of all fools norm here. Welcome to AntiFool. In this episode, we are going to talk about the stage specifically, public speaking.

I’m not sure if you’ve tried to do public speaking in front of a large audience, trying to perform or articulate or discuss a certain point topic or story in front of a lot of people. And that does bring up some fears, some issues, and it may not be comfortable for everybody, but the one person who revels in this kind of environment is none other than my guest for today, Francesco Mahfuz.

Here’s a little bio Francesco Mahfuz has always loved speaking even before he had anything useful to say. He’s been telling his stories in front of audiences for close to a decade, and even became a national champion of public speaking today. Francesco is a keynote speaker on storytelling and offers presentation, coaching to individuals and international organizations.

He’s recently published his first book, Bare, a guide to brutally honest public speaking. And by bare, I mean, bare naked, not the bear, like the animal. I had a chat with Francisco to talk about all facets of public speaking. And in this episode, we take a deep dive into how humor is used as a tool to really capture the attention of audiences, the fears, and worries, and common patterns of amateur, public speakers, and those who are in need of coaching.

And Francisco’s origin story and how that is connected with being brutally honest with who he really is on stage to drive a point home. We also talked about Ted and TEDx, the differences between those and the different intricacies that we can learn from public speaking at many different stages.

Essentially this episode is all about public speaking, quite a number of laughs, actually, a lot of laughs because Francesco is naturally a funny guy. I hope you enjoy this episode. So let’s play the fool and learn from the wise by diving into my chat with Francesco Mahfuz

Mr. Francisco Mahfuz, welcome to the show. How are you doing?

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:03:01] I’m all right. Norm. These are very, very strange times, but I find myself telling people that I’m still sane, I haven’t felt like a, like, you know, taking, you know, violence to the family. And the three year old, the three year old is still running around living and breathing.

And if I’ve made it eight weeks with a three year old in the house, then you know, I I’ve been doing okay.

Norman Chella: [00:03:29] If you can survive in a situation like that, I’m sure that you can survive a pandemic. Uh, as long as you are safe inside and healthy and safe here in this pillow Fort, as I’m seeing your video right now, I’m sure you have lots to say, especially the fact that you are in this interesting room with your amazing podcast set up, but.

I’m sure that Francesco, more people know about you, especially from your amazing public speaking endeavors, but I’m going to play the fool here, right? Say that I do not know what you do. Even though I totally just like stalked your profiles for like 30 minutes straight though. It just a few minutes ago.

Could you tell me a little bit about your origin story? How did you become a national champion at public speaking? Where did this come from?

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:04:20] I’ve become a national champion of public speaking by getting married too early to a woman, who turned out to be a lesbian.

That that is, that is essentially where it started, but let me back it up a bit. I’ve, I’ve always been one of those weird people that never had an issue. Speaking in public. So when I was a kid, you know that whenever you do one of these group exercises and everybody gets together and goes to someone’s house and you do the homework together, but then you have to present at that.

Yeah. There’s always one kid that gets pushed in front of the class to present. I was that kid and I never had any issue with that. And then when I was a bit older, I was an English teacher and I worked with a lot of teenagers. No problem there. And that was just what I did. I was always fine in front of a group.

And then at some point, a client of mine told me about this Toastmasters thing and I thought, okay, sounds weird, but why not? And that’s when I started public speaking and that was maybe close to a decade ago and I’ve never really looked back. I always enjoyed it, but, but I’m not very smart. So even though I was doing this thing and enjoying it, and people kept telling me that I was very good at it.

I, it never occurred to me that maybe I should be getting paid to do it. I was like, no I would just keep putting hours and hours of my life into this every week for no money. Cause that seems smart. And then not, not that long ago. With my second daughter, uh, arriving somewhat unexpectedly. I started thinking about life in general and thought, you know what?

I’m never going to have time for anything ever again, once this kid gets a little older, so if I’m going to do something different with my life, this is the time to start. And I haven’t answered your question about the national champion part. Yeah, but that’s kind of straightforward if you are in Toastmasters, there are competitions.

So they do competitions about what they call it, international speech, which most people would just call a talk. They do competitions about the improvised stuff. They do competitions about humorous stuff. And they do competitions about evaluating other people’s speeches. So before my daughter started taking up a lot of my time, I competed a fair bit.

And one of the things I won was the national level. I won the humorous speech contest with a story about my first marriage, which well was only suited for humorous competition.

Norman Chella: [00:07:02] Yes. And I have listened to it. And, uh, it is, I’m going to, I’m going to link the, I’m going to link the speech in the show notes of this episode.

Uh, not to spoil anything too much.

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:07:14] That one is not, that one is not the national championship. Oh, that is the one. That one is a, that one is a Barcelona championship. That’s when I was a very. So there’s a short one. It’s like four or five minutes. The one I don’t, unfortunately don’t have on video. The one that I won the national championship and I’m not so sure.

My ex wife would love that one video.

She knows about the speech, she’s read it. That’s fine. There’s no issues, but the video might be a bit too much.

Norman Chella: [00:07:49] Okay. Okay. Awesome. In the interest of protecting your ex wife, we’ll probably try not to scrape for such a video. Is that your favorite kind of speech to do like the humorous, like, or I take it, you’ve tried all of them and maybe are not as good as some of them.

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:08:09] There’s no way to answer that question without sounding like a complete douchebag,

Norman Chella: [00:08:13] but. I will, I will bear the responsibility with you. Okay. I was just generally just asking.

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:08:23] Yeah, I, I I’ve, I find I’m significantly better at the humorous stuff than I am at dramatic stuff, but having said that, that gives me an advantage if I’m speaking to audiences that are getting used to me, or if it’s a longer speech, I can do the funny stuff without trying too hard. And then if I bring anything in that is a little deeper or that it’s a little more emotional, I’m always catching people off guard. Because they don’t see it coming.

And because I don’t come across as that type of speaker, normally, if you will look, people look up some of my stuff online, there was one video that’s called your money or your life. And in general, it was a fairly humorous speech. And at one point it takes a very unexpected turn into. You know, more important stuff.

And that contrast tends to work really well. And I much prefer the humorous stuff because you get instant feedback. People are enjoying themselves. It’s just more, a more pleasurable experience than doing in my opinion, doing operational stuff. But you know, there’s a, there’s a time and place for everything.

And if you’re doing a keynote, for example, it can’t just be about the humor. It cannot just be an entertaining speech. It has to bring content and it has to bring value. So in a keynote, the humor becomes more of a tool to deliver your message. Whereas if you give me a seven minute speech, which is a type of stuff, people that are in Toastmasters, I mean, you can have five minutes and a half of humor and just a little bit of a message to make the whole thing seem slightly more worthwhile to the audience, but it can be mostly humor.

Norman Chella: [00:09:59] Yeah, there has to be substance or an intent behind humor because the sole purpose of it. At least, at least from what I understand, I mean, I’ve been to a few Toastmasters defense, but definitely not 10 years national champion level, but I’ve been to a few where at least I try to break down all the regular Toastmasters members, adding humor to speeches.

It’s more like taking us on a ride or connecting us via humor via laughs. So that impact behind the point that they’re trying to make is much more powerful because you could have just had a speech, but just like 30 seconds, you say a point, and then you leave. But to be able to ease someone into that is.

Part of the beauty of speaking in public or part of the beauty and trying to take people on a ride to go from A, to B in the most beautiful fashion or in the most. Interesting fashion or the most funny fashion, or at least in your case, the most humorous fashion, since it is the most, it is maybe I guess your favorite category,

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:11:01] Humor is just in my mind is too powerful to not to use.

If you can use it, it’s, it will relax an audience. It will make it, make it easier for them to connect with you. You get them laughing a few times in the first minute or two of a speech. And essentially the message you’re giving out is. You can sit back and enjoy. I’ve got this, uh, you, you you’re in for an entertaining seven minutes or 10 minutes or an hour or whatever it might be.

And even if you’re going to just do a serious message and I’ve done speeches that were pretty heavy from an emotional point of view, but you still need the laugh to cut the tension. If it’s just heavy. Heavy, heavy, heavy, it’s just too much, right? It says, just give me a break here. Right.

And so if nothing else, you need humor just to change things up a bit. But I think that if any speaker that learns how to use humor has a big advantage when trying to, to do anything innovative, it’s a business presentation. I’ve been to business presentations that were hilarious. And no one ever said, Oh, we know it was a great presentation, but it was just too funny.

No one has ever complained about a speech being too funny or too short for that matter. Right. But too funny is if you can do it, you should do it, but just make sure that there’s content behind it.

Norman Chella: [00:12:20] Yeah. I mean, you’re not out there just to make people laugh. It’s like laughing and bring the point home.

How do you train your skill in delivering that humor? I would love to hear I’m going to play the fool here. I have no public speaking experience. And I see you with your funny speeches and I ask you, Francesco, how are you so funny on stage? Is there like a process or a way to practice that humor?

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:12:46] The first and most important part, at least as far as I know, it is just to have a life full of embarrassing situations.

You’re only good at as good as your content, you know? So I, I mean, you can make something that is not that funny work because you have a refund, you know, funny facial expressions and things of that nature. That’s not really me. Most of the stuff I’m talking about is very self deprecating. So I’m talking about, you know, stupid things I’ve done that the, the, the failure of my first marriage, how bad I am as a parent, that sort of stuff.

So I’m always making myself vulnerable, which is a lot easier because you know, it’s safe. No one is going to complain that you’re making fun of yourself typically and finding the humor in everyday things and finding human things.

People will find embarrassing. To me the secret. Now, because if you have good material, all you have to do is not screw up the delivery. The way you deliver well is usually you want to catch people a little bit by surprise. So yeah, you don’t want to start smiling, you know, big smile on your face 10 seconds before the punchline comes, because it then becomes a bit too obvious, but you can’t also look like you’re going to cry because otherwise it’s, you know, sometimes people won’t get it.

Right. You know, so there’s this one example that I’ve used in a speech and I’ve used it more than once and it works really well. But again, you need to know that the content is going to be understood the way people do. You want people to understand, which is this. I was talking about how my last year, there’s a whole bunch of things that happened in my year that were bad.

All right. So we found out we had to move flat without any notice. And there was a bit of a nightmare. And then our cat got really sick and looked like she was not going to make it. And you know, we finally sorted those things out. I almost got fired. There was a whole bunch of problems. And then, you know, when I thought the, I thought my year had gotten better, but then.

In, in an early morning in may, my wife woke me up on the verge of tears and sad, the scariest thing I’ve ever heard

Francesco, I’m pregnant again.

Norman Chella: [00:15:02] Oh, that’s tough. I don’t think you’d want to hear that in a time like that. Okay.

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:15:10] But as she, that one can go either way. Right. So if you don’t have any context as you didn’t, that can sound like this is a terrible thing that I’m talking about right now, when I’ve done that it was on the back. of well, we did it with a group of people that know me and know my type of humor. And I did it.

My company asked me to do a presentation at the Christmas party and they said, talk about whatever you want. Right. And I said, I’m going to make fun of people, you know that. Right. And I said, no problem. So I had just been telling.

Jokes or funny stories for the last sort of seven or eight minutes. And then I did that with the straightest face I could, and they broke, they cracked up laughing because they, they read it for what it was. Right. I mean, there was something serious in there, but, but reality is, you know, geez crap. I’m going to have another kid, but again, you need the context.

Cause if I just do that. Pretend one thing that would be a joke without any context, it’s going to fail. Some people laugh. Some people go, well, hold on. But is he sad about this or not? So you need to understand the context in which you’re going to use. The humor in the delivery of it is often just, okay.

Work up to the punchline, deliver the punchlines slowly enough that no one is going to miss any words and shut up. And the shutting up part is very important because it’s very common that people that are nervous deliver an amazing punchline and just start talking straight away. So even if you get a laugh, you talk over the laugh.

So instead of getting maybe 10 seconds, 20 seconds of laughter, you get two seconds.  there’s this thing, people don’t feel rewarded. You know, they were laughing and you, you didn’t even bother to let me laugh, who just carried on. So screw you. I’m not laughing the next time. Alright. And it’s just a waste, right?

It’s cause people are laughing. You can make a face. Nobody’s going to see it because we’re not on video, but you know, you could just go like. And then you get an extra laugh, right? So, but that’s mostly, it is having good material, understanding the context in which you’re going to use that material. Don’t give, give away the punchline with your face, but also don’t hide it completely.

So we know just talk more or less normally that you don’t have to be an actor. Right. Deliver it and shut up and know that a lot of times it’s just not going to land. Right. If you say it and it doesn’t work, there is not a great deal you can do in those cases. What I have done before is you say something like, um, that was a difficult one.

You laugh on the way home. Alright. Or something or something along those lines. I’ve seen. If you’re doing a speech, they know you speak in other places. Right. And I say, you speaking in, I don’t know Barcelona as I do. And you have people know you speaking to other places you could say. Really, they love this one in Madrid.

And then when you can do stuff like that to just make it feel less uncomfortable, cause it’s super uncomfortable. If you deliver a joke and it just doesn’t land. Um, but it’s a case of context, right? Mmm. So, you know, again, you need to understand your context. You need to understand that not everybody’s coming from the same place as you are.

I did one that didn’t really work. Um, in a, in a speech that overall worked very well was I was trying to say, sorry, what I said was, uh, ma you know, money, uh, the world revolves around it. Um, but no, you don’t need money to be happy now all you need is, you know, mmm. What’d he say, but you need peace of mind and love.

And I learned that after spending a whole week with my wife barefoot in the Maldives.

Now, if you know that the Maldives are horrendously expensive, you get that for what it is. But if you have no concept that the Maldives are a very expensive holiday destination, I mean, in the U S perhaps I should, I could, I wouldn’t use them all divas, perhaps I would stay, I don’t know. I’d have to figure it out.

What is it? The Caribbean or something, right. They just figured out what is the most expensive holiday destination that everybody would relate to. Okay. Why not? I know that that place is expensive and I did it in Barcelona. Didn’t realize that most people don’t necessarily know how expensive the Maldives are and then just some people got it.

Some people didn’t. So again, know your audience have good material, ideally making fun of yourself and out of other people and, you know, deliver it slowly enough that people can understand and shut up. That tends to be most of what you can teach about. He wanted to sell one because you know, it’s just timing and there’s other stuff that you need to practice.

Um, I don’t think it’s for everyone, but for some people it comes very naturally and then they should double down on it. Um, because it’s, it’s, it’s very, very powerful if you can use it. Well, it’s very powerful.

Norman Chella: [00:20:01] I’m just curious about how, if there are moments when humor may or may not cross the line, but then you did already cover that since there are.

You can essentially have subtle amounts of humor to make sure that the energy is still up. Make sure you can still prep the punchline and make sure that you can have that moment where you said something and it’s funny and you have the silence, then people can react and you allow them to react. And then you can safely move on.

Is this normal say when you are doing. Like training or coaching for other people that when people come up to you and say, Hey Francesco, I need help with my public speaking. I’m getting nervous on stage. I try to be funny and it was crap. Uh, I don’t know how to handle myself on stage. Do you tend to see moments like these occur often?

When you start to say help other people with their speaking or to see them trying out something like humor or another technique? While speaking, I would love to hear your experiences as someone who is like professional in this, trying to help someone who is maybe an amateur or just starting out.

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:21:11] Humor is not typically the ones thing that people want help with because most people don’t want to try humor

Either they’re naturally funny and they know it and it’s just a case of working on it or they don’t want to touch it. All right. And this is something I sometimes struggle with because my, my writing is very geared towards humor.

So if I keep looking for opportunities for humor and not everybody’s speaks that way, and I am using speak here in the sense of speaking in public. So if you’re not a naturally humorous person, you are not looking for where you can insert a joke or get a laugh. Normally I am. So I would, should I suggest things and say, Oh, here, maybe if you’re trying to, if you would like to maybe get a laugh, you might want to try and do something like this, but that’s not normally what most people want help us, most people want help with.

So, so the stage fright is, is one of them and that’s a big one. The other thing that most people want help with in is really what they should get help with is getting better, using better content, because either people don’t have the content or they have the content, but they don’t know how to structure it, or they, they think they know how to structure it, but they’re not too sure.

There’s just a whole bunch of things. But the reality is most people are just not that good and writing their ideas down in a way that. Is easy to understand is, is it to follow is entertaining and they might have the content in the sense that they say, okay, why I have this idea? And this idea is amazing.

And I want people to know about it, but getting it from their heads into the audience was had, there’s a whole bunch of steps in there that they just have no idea about. Because if you just go and tell it in technical terms, it doesn’t work. If you tell it in a very boring way, it doesn’t work. If that is in a way that doesn’t make it clear to the audience, why they should care, then it also doesn’t work.

So that is the type of thing that most people need help with. It’s uncommon that you get someone who’s doing most of those things right. And say, yeah, but I’m just not getting any laughs. I need to get better at the humor side. Mmm. Again, It does happen. And I have tried to help people with, with humor, but it’s not an easy thing.

I find that if you’re not funny at all, I cannot make you funny. If you are funny, but you don’t really have any technique and you don’t really know doing, all I need to do is give a two, three tips and I forgot. Right. You know, I’ll give you the rule of three. You know, just talk about how two things that are normal.

And the third thing is an exaggeration or the third thing is, you know, you, you refer to that, that speech of mine, the smell of love. And that saying, I said, love for me, smells like Rosemary, um, Italian Barolo wine and pee. All right. So the third thing is the weird one or the bizarre one or whatever the exaggerate or you talk about.

Um, just exagerration, ration, or you talk about callbacks, you know, whatever you said in the beginning, try to keep bringing that back. And just the sheer repetition people feel like it’s an inside joke and it just keeps coming and it’s coming. And even if it wasn’t that funny in the beginning, you will get funnier as you bring it back.

So stuff like that, they’ll go, Oh yeah, I know exactly how I’m going to use that. That works, but that’s not the vast majority of people that need any type of training in public speaking.

Norman Chella: [00:24:42] How do you help someone who has stage fright? I take it because people who have stage fright are about to enter that kind of environment, it is a high intensity environment.

You’re on stage. You’re about to present content to people. Most of the time, though, I’m going to assume here at , please, correct me if I’m wrong. Most of the time, the ones who do approach you and say, I need help. I’m I’m freaking out. I need to calm down. I need a way to deal with my stage fright.

They tend to be probably first time presenters on a large scale stage, as someone who is, you know, been through all of that, how do you help them with stage fright? Because that is a whole other thing. And I think, I feel that that’s very psychological, but maybe there are techniques or something like that that you can help out with that.

I would love to see that process.

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:25:32] The, sometimes the desire is to just say, Tough luck, snowflake, you know, just get up there and do it.

As educational techniques go. It only works for a very selected group of people. So there are hacks in there. They’re real approaches. So the hacks will work for a lot of people and the hacks are pretty simple. So the hacks are the most important one is stagefright is, is an egocentric thing because you’re making it about you.

You think that the way you come across is important, what people think of you is important. And all of that is an, all of these are egocentric things. None of that is true. No one cares how good you look on stage. No one cares how proficient you come across. They care about the message. Are you giving them something of value?

Because if you’re giving them something of value, they will think you were a good speaker and sometimes stammering or blinking or looking nervous will add to your message because it’s like, Oh, it’s a real person on stage is not this polished robot who doesn’t look like a real person. Doesn’t speak like a real person.

And maybe I don’t believe this person. So that’s the first thing is, is understanding. Do you have a message that is worthwhile sharing? Can you get it out? Like, is the stage fright going or not? Is it not going to stop you from getting it out? Well, no, I’m going to sound crap and I might stammer. Okay, fine.

What is the masters of getting out? That’s the most important thing, right? The couple of other things are understanding that the physical sensations of fear are the exact same physical sensations of excitement. It’s all adrenaline. And I’ve been doing this for years. I still get a dry mouth and wet palms.

You know, I still get butterflies in my stomach. I just know that to be what adrenaline does to my system is not physically pleasant, but I don’t read anything into it. And if I don’t get that is because I’m just not that excited. If you say to me, okay, listen, I just wanted you to, you know, give me the summary or the synopsis of your book or whatever.

Fine. I’ve done that a million times. There’s no particular excitement in doing that. Okay. And you know, if, if I want to do a party, someone is interviewing me for a podcast and they send me the questions ahead of time. I’m not going to get an excitement out of that. But if you say, listen, I’m not going to tell you anything.

And I’m just going to put you on the spot. Then I’ll get that. Okay, but it’s just understanding it’s excitement is not necessarily fear. And the third thing is a very basic one and it’s that? It’s strange being on a stage. It’s strange being in front of all these people, but you don’t, but there’s things you can do that make it feel less strange.

And one of them is proper eye contact. When you look at the audience, it’s do you know that that’s only gonna make it worse and also is not good because no one will feel that connection with you if you’re just looking at the audience. So what you do is you look at one person for. You know, long enough for you to finish a couple of sentences, you know, you want them to feel a connection.

You don’t want them to feel sexually harassed. And then, and then you move to the next person. And usually in most audiences, you find that some people are really liking your stuff. They’re smiling, they’re looking at you with a nice friendly face, and all you need is four or five people across the audience.

And you just keep looking at the same people. You know, a couple in the front, one at the back, and everybody will feel that they’ve been there. They’ve been looked at, and that will mean you’re not talking to a hundred people or however many people you have. If you’re talking to these five people, you know, John and Mary ever, that you can plant people, you can put your mates in the audience and just look at them.

So that helps. So those are hacks to some people they will. There’ll be all you need for two to get over the stage fright. But for other people you need to exposure therapy, right? You need, okay, fine. So let’s, let’s make sure you, you know, your material, you prepared enough, you can do it while you’re doing the dishes.

You can do it in the shower. So, so your chances of forgetting it are small, then we’re going to get some notes and we’re going to put your notes next to your water in the podium that you’re not going to use. But if you start thinking, well, maybe I’m not so sure what comes next. You go over there. You’d have a glass of water.

You look down at the notes. Can you crack on, then you practice that to your coach. Then you practice that to your partner. Then you practice that to some of your mentors, three or four of your mates, um, and then, you know, eventually you’ll be get to a point that you can do that in front of a hundred people and you shouldn’t freeze.

And if you forget, you just be able to check your notes and, and you’ll be fine. I did most people don’t care. And most people don’t know this, but this happens to the Ted speakers all the time and Ted speakers. Don’t, they’re not as fluent as people think they are. That’s camera work. They look at notes and they just edit them out.

All right. Sometimes they stop speeches and tell them to start again. And they just use the better cut of that in the video that you see online. So. The practice is very important. And that’s why I tell everyone, regardless of your interest in public speaking or not to join a Toastmasters group, or it go a few times to see if you don’t hate it.

If you don’t hate it, you should stick with it for a while. You want to get better at it. But the mistake most people make is they never spoken in public. They feel they’re afraid of speaking in public, but then. This big opportunity comes along and they want to get coached for this one thing from scratch and they expect not to be afraid and be fantastic.

Well, no, you should have done 50 speeches in your life that have little or no. Uh, risk and value to your career in life before the big one comes along, because at least it’s desensitized to all this stuff that goes on, but you know, you’ll help people as much as you can. But if someone comes to me three days before the big speech, there’s only so much you can do, right?

You can help with their content. You can give them. The hacks, you can kind of say, okay, listen, we’re going to practice this 100 times between now and then, and you’re going to hate the bloody speech, but there is no way in hell we’re going to forget it. And, and you know, if you get someone gets up there and freezes completely, I mean, I mean, there’s only so much you can do, but it doesn’t really happen if you practice a lot.

And if you have the notes and if you’ve got this, you’re like, okay, what’s the worst that can happen. And you freeze, you walk to your note to check them, you know, what comes next? And then you do it. Yeah.

Norman Chella: [00:32:01] And it’s, I feel like it’s a misconception that a lot of people are a lot of presenters expect to have absolutely no notes or expect to have so little break time to actually check and get back on track on where and to speech are they at or where in that moment of their time presenting are they at?

And that’s a good point on the Ted videos actually, I’ve actually just only found out about that. Like last year, end of last year, that Ted videos are heavily edited, uh, to increase the impact. Like the shot quick camera works, the change in shots. Oh. Of major points. Switch camera because something’s happening or something else like that.

Where else? I think a greater. A better example is actually the TEDx talks because there’s less camera working, less post editing in that regard to show you that there are TEDx speakers. There are speakers on stage that can actually give a very normal humane speech without going over to top it, without going super ultra inspirational or in your words dramatic.

I don’t mind that dramatic ness. It’s more like you may go a little bit over the top when it comes to trying to be dramatic or trying to be someone that you are not. Um, which leads me to a point, uh, on your book bare, which is essentially becoming really brutally honest. Uh, when public speaking, when should I be brutally honest when speaking on stage and when shouldn’t I be?

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:33:33] There is a bit of a bait and switch in the title of the book, which is bad, a guide to brutally honest, public speaking. And most people tend to think of brutally brutal honesty as essentially being an asshole. Right. You know, you, you, you just say whatever comes to your mind, then I’m just saying it.

It’s just how I feel. And I don’t care if someone gets hurt or if someone is upset about it, but I tend to use the way I use brutal, brutal honesty in the book is this idea of being transparent and vulnerable about your own stuff. Not about other people. Hmm. And the answer to me is always, because I don’t really see the point of sugar coating stuff.

I don’t really care if it’s a humorous speech. If it’s a inspirational presentation, if it is a business presentation, you should be honest and being honest, involved. Being transparent. So even if it’s a business presentation and there are problems a company’s having, or your team is having, I don’t see the benefit of hiding that stuff also because the moment that someone knows you’re hiding stuff, you’re losing credibility.

They know that’s not the full truth. So you’re just going to lose, they call it in the trade, you lose ethos, right? So it’s quite a bit is they go hold on. He’s he’s not really painting the full picture. There’s bits there that is not talking about. And that I don’t think it’s ever a good idea. Mostly I’ll  to be brutally honest about yourself, always again, you need to pick your context, right.

You know, if I, if I want to talk about my fears about being a parents for the, for the second time, there are certain audiences that that will be suitable and certain audiences that it won’t be, or at least there are certain moments in my speech when that type of thing is suitable and moments when it’s not.

I cannot open with that in a business presentation. Right. But if I’m taking people on a journey, maybe there is a point in that journey that I have to show myself to be a human being full of fears and weaknesses or whatever. And maybe that at that point works fine, but. I think that most of what happens is complete opposite. Business presentations are fueled by what my good friend Florine Muk. Who is an amazing public speaking trainer.

He calls it bullshit bingo, a nice name. Most business presentations is just all this business, talk of critical mass and win-wins and you know, there’s more synergy and all this malarkey and no person speaks like that. Can you live hearing all of that? Yeah. And most of it’s just going over your head or is your sounds like business speak?

Yeah. And there’s very rarely a reason to not sound like a normal person. No, by all means be intelligent and be informed about your subject matter. But usually, you know, I think it was Einstein that said that it takes a lot of knowledge to make something sound simple. And a lot of people do the opposite.

They’re making things sounds very complicated and they’re hiding behind all this lingo that doesn’t resonate with anyone. You can listen to a Ted talk. Ted talks are the gold standard of public speaking for a reason. And they’re not technical. They’re, they’re meant to be understood by a lay audience and they are.

Right. And again, not everything is a personal story, right. But if you’re talking about the state of the science, you should be brutally honest about the state of the science. There is no point in saying yes, the vaccine will surely come in December. Well, if you’re a scientist and you’re giving a talk and you’re trying to gain, you know, keep your credibility, don’t say something that, you know, not to be true or very unlikely to be true.

Huh. So again, there is a problem with that and it’s a problem we have. Experienced a lot recently, which is something called the Dunning Kruger effect. I don’t know if you’ve heard about that.

Norman Chella: [00:37:39] I heard the term, but you just remind me. Exactly what it means.

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:37:45] The simplest explanation to that is bullshitters can sound a lot more convincing than people who know stuff.

And the reason that happens is because if you know, stuff you’ll know all the things you don’t know. So you hedge it. So when someone asks a scientist, right. What do you know, when are we going to get a vaccine? They’re worried about all these millions of variables that could affect what they say. And they will say, Oh, well, we there’s a lot of good work going on.

And we think that things are advancing as they are now with our current knowledge, we expect that maybe we’ll be able to get one in 12 to 18 months. Right. But then you speak to the person who doesn’t know what they’re talking about and they’ll sound super confident. Oh, we will have on by the end of the year.

Do you want to listen to it? So the problem then becomes that you sound significantly more confident. So, so the, the, your knowledge of the matter and how confidential sound have an inverse correlation. Okay. Okay. Yeah. Cause you’re not worried about hedging, you know, so little that you feel that you, no, everything there is to know about it, that you can definitely tell people about it.

And this is the only real problem about being brutally honest about things is that. Sometimes that will involve showing doubt.

So, you know, I think you have to pick your moments, right? I think you can choose to be vulnerable about yourself as a person, but perhaps not be super vulnerable about your knowledge of the subject you’re talking about, because that might just take away from your credibility in an environment where it’s not going to do any good.

Right. Because most of us are not talking about vaccines. So. Yeah, you know, pick your moments.

Norman Chella: [00:39:32] Yeah. Of course, as long as the confidence is based on founded knowledge, as opposed to random articles that you find on Twitter. As I’ve seen a lot on the state of Twitter right now that a lot of experts are claiming their expertise on their tweet storms.

I am seeing a lot of the Dunning Kruger effect. Uh, so it is actually great that you brought that up. I forgot that that was actually the name of that term. If I were to be an amateur speaker. Is there a way for me to be aware that I’m actually doing that and how can I defeat that?

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:40:08] Yeah, you get that on language.

So the, one of the things we tend to advise people on and, and I, in my book, I talked about the Dunning Kruger effect because there was the, the three pillars of persuasion as Aristotle called them, which are ethos, logos and pathos. So credibility, reason, and emotion.

And one of the things we tell speakers is one of the ways to destroy your ethos is to use. Very hedging type of language. So you should find maybe there’s perhaps that’s what I think is that you you’ve just cut all of that out. You just sound 10 times more confident. I don’t want people to just say, okay, so what, what is it that you feel, you know? Okay. Now put that down the speech and get rid of all the hedging, right?

Because either you think, you know, when you can talk about it or you don’t know. Alright. So you’d know what they’re doing. You are not helping anyone by making them doubt the things you actually think, you know, the things you don’t know, don’t talk about them or say. What I’m not going to tell you is that the vaccine will arrive in December.

What I will tell you is that, okay, there’s lots of, lots of promising work happening right now. And we expect that we’ll get it in record time compared to any other vaccine we ever had in any short, any faster than that means that the work is not going to get done the way he needs to be done. So that’s fine.

That sounds confident enough. I haven’t said anything that’s going to get me into trouble and it’s all true. All right, but take all the shoulds and maybes and perhaps out of that. And the other thing is people should know what they know and they should be able to reference again, if you’re talking about science, right?

If you’re talking about facts, if you’re talking about your personal experience, then you’ll know what you know. Well, at least you think, you know what you know, but if you’re talking about hard facts, then there’s probably something that backs it up and then people should just be able to very easily find data that backs up what they, what they know.

And if they can. Then arguably they can put together a speech that sounds confident in not just their opinion of what things are. Right. Then again, it gets more complicated if you’re trying to figure it out. If you’re not just suffering from confirmation bias, but in general, you want speakers to sound confident about whatever it is that they’re talking about.

And if a speaker says, I’m not so sure about this part, then I would say, okay, well, is that essential to the speech? Can we not just replace it by something you do know. Because I don’t want you to be saying something confidently that you don’t actually think is true or might be false. So can we replace that by something you feel more confident about?

Norman Chella: [00:42:51] Yeah. That extensive, I it’s almost akin to editing like a novel. You really have to really hard cut, uh, all the sentences and all the phrases that really just do not add to the story. And in this case, If it isn’t based on your knowledge and if it isn’t really helping the audience, then why the hell is it there?

And to question that for each and every sentence in each and every part of your presentation or your keynote or your speech. I’m sure that is a skill that, you know, you need to practice over and over again and be on a stage over and over again so that every aspiring speaker can reach up to that level of Ted speaker so that you can finally get. An amazing fricking video where you’re edited to look way cooler than you actually are.

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:43:38] Yeah. There’s something to what you said there, it reminds me of, of advice that Stephen King talks about in regards to writing. And he said that he worked at a newspaper when he was young and he got this advice, which was, yeah.

Your first job is to tell know right down the story. And then the most important job is get rid of everything that is not the story. And he would give out his copy and then his editor would just blot out half of it. And he said, this is not the story. None of this is relevant to the story. You’re just adding stuff to it.

That is not the story. And with regards to having videos that are so unconfident, although it is true, that, that Ted talks or Ted speakers are not as good as perhaps the video editing makes them look. Hmm. I wouldn’t want people to think that you cannot actually be that good or better because when you look at technical things, there is a lot of Ted speakers that are not that great.

There’s a lot of Ted speakers that their body language is not helping them. There’s a lot of speakers that although their content is good. Is not sometimes as good as it could be. There’s a lot of things that they’re doing that is very far from perfect, from a technical point of view. And this is overdo the worry about technical things, but there’s so many speakers out there that are professional speakers who are amazing and we’ll talk for an hour and they are genuinely that good.

And they’re just different types of talks. But one thing that is. That helps a lot with a lot of speeches and talks and it gets rid of a lot of this issue of stage fright, or I’m going to forget things or whatever is that most presentations nowadays, too many of them, in my opinion, use slides.

If you’re using any images, the images are your notes. Because all you need is to have a few images in your speech. And then, you know, this image comes and it’s not ideal that you would be looking at what the images, but in Ted, for example, they tend to have other core confidence monitors. So you know, that little.

Monitor that sits on the caught the edge of the stage. And it looks just like a, just looks like a light, a few from the audience, but actually it’s a monitor. So the speaker clicks, the button sees exactly what’s there and remembers what comes next. And most people do that. So forgetting everything you’re going to say is not usually the problem that most speakers have.

It’s just that. You know, if there, if the writing doesn’t give itself to, to memorize remineralization, for example, there’s not enough stories in there, right. Or they’re trying to say, talk about something they’re not that familiar with, or they’re not familiar in that form that makes it toddler. You, you know, that was the whole reason that most of the problems out of the way.

Cause always, and you’ll know what they are. Yeah. So there’s that as well.

Norman Chella: [00:46:28] So many things to think about while you are on there, especially the storytelling aspect, even if you are stating hard facts, science, a personal experience, the deliverance of that content in that context. While keeping yourself sane while not, you know, falling under the weight of stage fright while keeping your confidence up and making sure that you’ve practiced beforehand.

As long as you have all of those in check, I’m certain that you can practice up to the level of Ted talk. Did you, did you, did you do a Ted talk by the way?

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:46:59] Do you have a, I haven’t, I haven’t yet I’ve gone. I’ve gone sort of the other. The other way in that now of I’ve started being a Tedx coach. So I’ve I’ve, I just, I started earlier this year and that was going to be the coach for at least a couple of Ted events, but then COVID struck and everything’s sort of on ice if they decide to just do them remotely, I’m still going to coach a whole bunch of people this year before the TEDx thing.

The one thing I would love to do one at some point. But the one thing I’m not crazy about is that a lot of people that to TEDx talks don’t necessarily have original ideas. And Ted was meant to be an original idea or at least an original take on an idea. So for example, yeah, I can maybe do something with the whole brutally honest thing, but you know, to a great extent, the real value I could get out of that.

Conversation is not too different than the whole Brenne Brown power of vulnerability thing. And so to me, that is not a terribly original, a terribly original idea. It’s more applied to speaking than anything else, but you know, and I’m very much into storytelling. Storytelling is mostly what I’m focusing on when it comes to the keynote side of things.

Right now. I know a lot about it. I’m not sure I know something terribly original about it just yet. And hopefully to come to me as I work more and more with this, but if you gave me a TEDx slot right now, and I’m not sure, what’s my original idea to talk about. So I don’t want to just rehash what a lot of very good people have done on their talks.

So there’s that as well. But yeah, I mean, it would love to do it is obviously there is a greatest exposure you can have for a, for a speaker. It’s commercially a very good thing. So no, I’ll jump at one for sure, but I haven’t tried too hard to get one because as soon as it started getting more involved with the Ted world and talking to people that have been doing.

Running the events for years. I said, you know, but talking to look at the speakers that we have, their ideas are very much original and they’re interesting. Interesting takes. I’m not sure I’ve got that yet. I would still do a good talk, but I’m not sure it would be. Fitting with what TED is trying to do with their talks, but always, it just becomes everybody trying to have one on their CV for the sake of having one.

And again, if you have one and 500 people watch it, it’s kind of pointless. So, you know, the idea does matter. It’s not just, Oh, this guy did his great speech and vulnerability. Oh, the Brenne Brown. No, no, no, no. That’s a different person. Okay. Well it’s, I’ve seen Brenne Brown. I’m going to bother with this one.

All right. So, so there’s that as well.

Norman Chella: [00:49:45] Yeah, the playing field of Ted the Ted event is not only the combination of just how good you are on stage, but also I guess, the transformation for the audience and trying to go from who were you before you entered the, uh, entered the auditorium, watching this person and.

What did you learn after? And the gap between it is just so great that you need that element of originality. So in the pursuit of finding an original idea, I’m sure it will be in the depths of storytelling. I’m sure that you can find something amazing and I’m sure that it will be humorous because nothing is better than that.

Having a really funny Ted talk. I’m not sure. How, um, in terms of adult themes will be involved, but if there’s any more pee involved, I’m not sure, but. Francesco. I hope that you will be on stage somewhere and I’ll be so proud cause cause that’d be so cool. It’ll be so cool that,

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:50:46] um, my hopes are a lot lower than yours at the moment.

I just hope that there are stages to get up on at some point in the near future. I think, and again, these are very different tracks to anyone’s career. I mean, yes. If you, if you do a tub. I thought that or Ted talk or TEDx talk. And again, now let’s be honest. They’re very different beasts, right? Yes. Tedx is a nice thing to have a Ted talk is, is a career maker, right?

If someone actually gets invited to do a Ted talk, which very few people are in, they do a decent one. That is a difference between them being the global authority on that, on that topic, or, or just being a good professional that has a decent career or whatever. Tedx if you get to the sort of million type of views that you can have that impact, but more for most people is just the stamp that says, okay, you can actually speak on a stage.

Right. But it’s not something that, Oh my God, he did a TEDx. Then this means in our careers launched and whatever. But yeah, I’m more concerned now about there being stages to speak at, with all the answers, because I mean, right now that is, I would say at least. Six months to a year away, more a year than six months.

And just, just being able to get in front of an audience again is, is what I would be looking forward to when aware that the next step from that goes is I can let’s walk, let’s walk outside without a mask before we can. Yes. Okay.

Norman Chella: [00:52:18] One step at a time, right? Let’s let’s, uh, let’s all hope for that moment where we can all gather around and listen to, uh, an oratory or a someone who can deliver something powerful onstage.

Francesco, I have two more segments to this. As we are wrapping up. One is called mementos. Do you have a memento that represents who you are?

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:52:47] It’s a difficult one. So I’m not, I’m not one for physical possessions, much. I don’t put much thought to them because I lose them all the time that doesn’t help. But.

I don’t know. I would think that the thing that represents who I am more than anything else is, is my speaking. If you know anyone who, anyone who watches, me speak, and now, now that is the book as well. There is the, you know, all the stuff I’m putting out on social media on LinkedIn. I would like to think that if you watch me speak.

And, or you read my stuff on social media or you read the book, then you’ll know me. And I think that the podcast will be very much that, although perhaps because I don’t talk anywhere near as much on the podcast as a host, as I do as a guest, but to me, that would be the most representative thing.

Of who I am. Um, I hadn’t really thought about it that way, but I would think that it’s one of those things that if, if, if you’re going to leave something behind, other than your children or crushing debt for your family, then I think that that type of stuff is what I think would be more representative of who I am.

Norman Chella: [00:54:14] Your speaking endeavors, the different facets of your voice. Oh, you know, it doesn’t have to be a physical memento. It could be even an action or a pursuit. So I’m perfectly okay with that. And the second segment is something called a walk away wisdom. So say we walk away from this conversation right now and I meet someone and I become friends with them and I become intimate with them and they become vulnerable, vulnerable with them.

I share with them a part of my life and part of my life is this conversation we’re having right now. Is there a piece of wisdom I can tell them that represents who you are.

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:54:49] I’m perhaps still stuck on his train. You get intimate with them. That’s through me a bit. I met, I met

Norman Chella: [00:55:05] I need to take that part out the segment. Okay. The  this is going to get in the fact I’m going to cut that part out later on. Okay. Vulnerable. Okay.

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:55:19] I think you should definitely be a bit in.

Right. Okay. Let me, let me focus. Okay. Deep breaths.

The one thing that to me is, um, the one thing that to me, is a massive issue with what I do and any, it applies to, it applies to the two sides of, of, of what I do that are the strongest, which is sort of storytelling. And the speaking, because to me, the storytelling is very entwined with the speaking is that.

People should realize the importance of being able to communicate your story because that applies to all walks of life. Yeah. You know, if you, if you’re able to tell people about your story, if you’re able to communicate about who you are and the things that are important to you, there is no end of benefits to your life.

When you do that, you know, people will know you better. They will remember you, whatever you trying to get across, we will come through better. There is no job in the world. I mean, maybe a very technical things, but there are very few jobs in the world that will not benefit. From you being a better communicator or a better storyteller, and there is no relationship you’re ever going to have.

That is not going to benefit from you being able to express yourself more honestly. And clearly people treat better communication skills as a hobby or this thing that is not really for me. And that to me is the biggest challenge with what I do is, is when we’re looking at how to teach people to speak better or communicate better, is that why would you possibly not want to get batter at that one thing that is the connecting, that is what stands between you and every other person in the world.

If you cannot communicate properly, the messages getting lost in that filter, which is that, you know, that space between you and another person is your communication. If that communication is crap, it doesn’t matter how wonderful person you might be.

You’re always counting on other people, getting something from you. You are not giving out. And you see that you see that in relationships, you see that at work and it happens over and over because people cannot communicate properly.

And if there’s one thing I would like people to, to get out of this, is that getting better at speaking and sharing what’s important to you sharing your story is the most important skill that most people can ever get better at. And unfortunately, very few people do.

Norman Chella: [00:58:16] And that is a fantastic note to end on speaking is essentially the medium that allows one to connect to another, to articulate any message, any form of expression, any pretty much any concept that goes from point a to point B for one person to another.

And really we all need to better communicate to Francesco. Thank you so much. Where can we find you if we want to contact you for anything speaking related or just to reach out.

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:58:46] Well being locked down, there was only one place before getting to find it. I’ll give all my address, but perhaps that’s a bit dangerous.

Norman Chella: [00:58:58] They can’t even go to you anyway. Cause of lockdown.

Francesco Mahfuz: [00:59:02] Yeah. So you can find me, you can connect with me on LinkedIn. I post pretty much daily there. The, the usual type of nonsense, but speaking stuff and storytelling stuff, uh, they can find me on at, uh, story, which is my website.

And the book is on wherever Amazon books are sold. But if you just look for, he was just looking forward to my, my name, which is hard to spell, but I’m sure it’s going to be something, you know, if you listened to the episode, the name is there. Right. So it’s not difficult to copy and paste, but that’s it. I mean, the one thing I would suggest to anyone that found any of this interesting at all is, is LinkedIn because then that that’s sort of the portal for everything.

I speak to everybody. Um, I put out stories pretty much every Monday, I put out a little story and I’ve started to putting out on how to videos on storytelling and public speaking and stuff like that. And, and from that, you will be able to go to every other bit of me and I’ll start. Talking about the podcast is not out yet.

I’m just recording the another three, four episodes and I’m publishing it, I think by the end of this month. And that was, again, everything will come through LinkedIn. But the rest of the, you know, whenever you find me, um, I talked to everyone and I talked too much, if anything, so just reach out if you’re on tonight and I’ll be glad to talk to anyone.

Norman Chella: [01:00:19] Amazing, of course, links to all of these will be in the show notes right below your LinkedIn profile and your websites as well. Francesco, thank you so much. And I’ll talk to you soon. And that is it. My chat with Francesco Mahfuz keynote speaker on storytelling and author of bear, a guy to brutally honest, public speaking.

It’s great to hear interesting the insights from speaking on stage, especially from someone as experienced as Francesco from sharing his journey to become a national champion in public speaking, to talking about all the intricacies behind up and coming public speakers and their fears, their worries.

How you should reframe your fear as excitement, how you should better understand the context, that’s the audience that you are performing in and the content and whether or not it will relate and using humor because humor is such a powerful technique. And if you are naturally humorous all the better for you as a public speaker, but don’t let that stop you.

I learned a lot from Francesco. It’s pretty interesting because I’ve always had this goal of wanting to talk on stage a lot from my time acting in plays to doing presentations in front of lots of people. It’s a really interesting space to be in, to be on stage performing or presenting in front of a lot of people.

I really, really liked that, that surge from speaking. So it’s nice to hear it. Francisco has similar sentiments when it comes to being on stage, being completely comfortable with doing so and his emphasis on storytelling, because it really does apply to each and everyone of our lives. And I’m sure it applies to yours as well, because if you are applying it each and every day, then all is well, stay warm, stay lovely.

And I will see you in the next episode, your foolish friend. Norm.

Thank you for listening to the show. Andy fool is hosted, produced and edited by me. Norman Chella. You can find out more about the show at It’s where I host all my other podcasts shows and more live music and sound effects.

Come from If you have any questions. Recommendations for guests and more hit me up on Twitter at Norman Chella or on LinkedIn as well. There is only one of me in the world. I’m sure you can find me there. I love connecting with people and having warm, meaningful conversations. Don’t be foolish.