FTC Kerri | Public Speaking

Master The Art Of Public Speaking With Kerri Garbis

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FTC Kerri | Public Speaking


Are you afraid of public speaking despite the numerous times you’ve had to speak in front of a crowd? Today’s guest is Kerri Garbis, the founder and CEO of Ovation, whose goal is to help you master the art of human interaction, especially through public speaking. Kerri explains that you need to remember three essential tips: rehearse with accountability, practice not getting distracted by you, and tell good stories. It’s all about practicing these three tips over and over again until you embed them into your muscle memory. Want to learn more from Kerri? Then tune in and listen to this episode!

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Master The Art Of Public Speaking With Kerri Garbis

Welcome to this moment in time when you get to chill out, tune in and extract wisdom that you can use to grow your business with your first thousand clients. If you’re reading and have a business that is in need of a little love, some revenues and profits, then I want you to grab my latest new product. It’s called Profit Stacking Secrets. It started out several years ago as a new client assessment, but it became more and more detailed as the years rolled forward. Hundreds of clients later, I’ve refined it to be what you need right now to grow quickly with very little investment using strategy instead of cash. All you’ve got to do is go to ProfitStackingSecrets.com and download yours now.

On to my guest and her incredible story. One day she found herself sitting in a green room with four different keynote speakers. One was puking into a garbage can, the other pacing, the third mumbling to himself, and the fourth appeared catatonic staring into space. She decided to find out, “What the heck is going on here?” All responded as if these were normal, “What do you mean? We’re preparing for a presentation.” They went back to their weird state of behavior. It was at that moment she realized that everything she had known and learned as a professional performing actress would be invaluable to those who needed to speak for a living, but her own skills did not come naturally.

You have to start by starting. Click To Tweet

Starting out as a struggling actress in New York City, she knew what it meant to work hard for years before seeing the results of her labor. In this case, it was a labor of love, even though the paychecks were few and far between taking bit parts and minor roles at first, before leading some of the most powerful stages in New York and crushing it, she learned skills that earned her as an actress, incredible roles in theater and prepared her for what would be her greatest performance yet. That’s helping you, helping leaders perform at their peak. She’s here to share with us how to do that. Welcome, Kerri Garbis, to the show.

Thank you. I have never had that story told back to me, and that was phenomenal. Thank you so much for that experience. I love it.

It’s my pleasure. As a side note, and readers realize this, I craft a custom intro for every one of my guests. Why? Because they deserve it. Instead of reading some long list of accomplishments, I want to tell your stories. The reason is that I have you reading and I want you to be excited about my guests. Here she is, the amazing Kerri Garbis. Kerri, give us a feel for where this all began for you. Fill in some of the blanks I left out in my story.

It’s a phenomenal story and you are right. It started in that green room with those guys and figuring out that what they were doing was counterintuitive to everything I knew to be true as an actor of how to prepare and get up in front of people and speak, be it with a script or extemporaneously, whatever. I had shortly around that time taken a break from showbusiness and got what I called a real job. I get a very green out-of-school sales job, even though I had been out of school at that time for a while. I realized there as well that my skillset as an actor was beneficial to helping me connect with my audience, which in this case was my sale prospects and having an awareness to my surroundings, or being able to pick up a prospect’s vernacular or the strong ability to read the room with something that seemed to elude even the most seasoned, really smart sales professionals that I was working alongside. All of that combined sparked this idea of “I think actors have something important to say to business professionals.” That was the true root of what sparked my firm, Ovation.

FTC Kerri | Public Speaking
Public Speaking: Building your self-awareness is the cornerstone of acting, presenting, and upping your game and professional presence.


What’s interesting about your story is a little bit of an abstract. Innovation comes from outside of fields and industries that most people are seeking. For example, much of what FedEx created when they built that company was outside the transportation industry completely. When I built my award-winning time and billing software company back in the 1980s, I wasn’t a lawyer. I wasn’t in the legal industry. I wasn’t even a software developer at the time, but I had a vision for what was missing, and people in the business didn’t have that vision. For you, it was very obvious, just like it was for me, like it is for many people of what is needed because of your experience outside of the business that you’re operating in. That resonates with me, and it’s a powerful story. Once you realize that, “Acting was cool and I’m getting my parts and I’m moving up that scale, but this is better,” where did you take that? How did you then start using that?

I started in that same sales job. I had a manager who was like, “You’re like really good at this thing,” that he couldn’t quite articulate, that maybe even at the time I couldn’t even articulate. He said, “Can you work with some of the team here?” I was in the Manhattan office at the time and I thought, “Yes, that sounds fun.” While I have a BFA in Musical Theater, I also have a minor in Education. I knew something about building curricula and a little bit about putting together a day of training or learning. I did some research about Adult Learning Theory, which isn’t told differently than Child Learning Theory by the way. I put together a training day for some of the people in the office and I mixed in acting stuff. I mixed in stuff around the beginnings of what Ovation does now.

I came home at the end of the day and I said to my then-boyfriend who’s now my husband, “I loved it. I had the best day. I felt useful. People learn things from me and I wasn’t desperately dying to get an acting job. It was fulfilling for me.” That began the conversations with us of, “What would it look like if we started a company? What could you do?” That morphed into many years later this company. Ovation is more than nine years old. We have 25 people and all the trainers are professional actors because that became part of my mission too, was to employ professional actors and get them feeling as good as I was in that moment in between their acting gigs.

Don't be distracted by you because it uses so much of your brainpower to see and critique yourself. Click To Tweet

I would say that’s a great evolution. I was going to say transition, but it really was more of an evolution of you, and you then built this great business around it. Thanks for sharing that story. It was certainly very powerful and instructive to those who I think are potentially struggling in something that they don’t fit in. I think while I believe you did fit in as an actress, you saw a much bigger opportunity and went for it, which is the American way, or at least it used to be the American way. Congratulations on that. What we do here on the show, Kerri, is that what I would like for you to do is I would like for you to teach. What I mean by this is I want you to share the stuff that’s in your paid program. I want you to help our readers who are struggling sometimes to present either on virtual environments or real stages on how to up their game. Teach me how to up my game, and we will have accomplished a lot during our interview. Where do people start when they begin the process of trying to improve their ability to present?

You have to start by starting. We work with a ton of people who at first say, “I don’t need to rehearse it. This is not for me. It’s a waste of time. I don’t have time and I’m way better off the cuff.” The first thing we do is start to build their self-awareness. Even the most seasoned speakers, even me, I spend a lot of time here on this screen certainly. I spend a lot of time on big stages when we’re able to do that in front of live people. It is helpful to periodically watch yourself either through a video recording or getting some trusted feedback, shining the mirror on yourself essentially, and making some adjustments, getting those adjustments into your muscle memory and doing something more productive, more engaging. It’s something that’s able to be heard more easily by the audience. First and foremost, we want to start to build our self-awareness, that’s the cornerstone of acting. That’s the cornerstone of presenting. That’s the cornerstone of upping your game and professional presence. Figuring out what is a habit and what is a choice?

I’m going to say for myself, I’m going to make the assumption that if I started to become aware of myself while in session, I would crash and burn because I’m not at all focused on myself. How would I do that?

Don’t be self-aware, just stop. You need to rehearse first. You need to practice this stuff at a safe laboratory environment, at a time that you can get up or try something new and see how it feels and how it appears to your audience. You need some trusted feedback from a coach, or even just recording yourself and watching it back and be like, “That does not work for me. There’s something interesting in there that I’d like to try.” You find the stuff that works. You find the stuff that is compelling and engaging to your audience. You start to get that stuff into your muscle memory, and muscle memory is a procedural memory, it’s not memorization. By the time we get something really good and productive into our muscle memory, then we can start to do it in real life. By the time you’re doing it in real life, it’s in your muscle memory and you don’t have to think about it.

FTC Kerri | Public Speaking
Public Speaking: We need to rehearse with accountability with a trusted coach, a video camera, or terrific software.


One of the things we work hard with a lot of professionals is getting rid of the dreaded filler words. We’ll get a pause or breath, or however they want to think about it into their muscle memory. By the time they’re getting up speaking to people, presenting whatever it is, they’re not thinking about, “I need to pause here,” it’s part of who they are. We need to rehearse with accountability, that’s where it starts. Build yourself awareness and rehearse with accountability, a trusted coach, a video camera, a terrific software, any and all of those things we have and that you can find out in the world as well.

What’s interesting about what you said to me is that, when I started recording this show back over a couple of years ago, I began doing the editing myself at first. I was appalled at the way I spoke. I was shocked that if I had a pad and could make a stroke for every time I said, “Um,” I would have run out a paper. It required what you’re talking about here, which is a conscious awareness of things that you’re doing that you don’t want to do. For me, it took a long time. I think with a coach, it probably would have taken less time. I didn’t even know a coach that could do that. What you said resonated with me. What didn’t resonate with me, and what I’m struggling with a little bit about what you said, is that a lot of my presentations are off the cuff. They’re not rehearsed. How would I rehearse an off-the-cuff presentation?

That goes back to getting those good habits into your muscle memory. You can rehearse off the cuff. We could do an exercise where it’s like what you’re doing to me right now, throwing a question at me and having me answer it, and practicing some of those good habits and getting those into your muscle memory, for sure. Think of it like improv theater. Improv theater is not rehearsed. It’s extemporaneous, there are new scenarios thrown at them all the time. However, the rules of play or performance are very set. They follow a stringent set of, “Here are how things go, here’s what we’re going to do.” You can do the same thing for yourself in presenting as well.

If you are watching us speak as we are, I want you to notice something. Notice how animated Kerri is on her stage. This by itself is for me another learning moment. Instead of sitting still here and like a talking head, you get up and move, and that’s a great reminder for me. Kerri, you said that there were three tips. Did you cover all three or did you tell me which ones you have coming up next?

I think I covered one, rehearse with accountability. In terms of presenting in the virtual environment specifically, and we’ve been talking a lot about this the past couple of months, and this is something we’ve always employed because Ovation has always been a virtual company. What’s nice is that we were able to come into 2020 and everybody was like, “How are you pivoting? What are you doing?” I was like, “What we did before, basically.” Things changed. We weren’t doing so much in-person, workshops, speaking, etc. In terms of the infrastructure of the company, it stayed exactly the same. I think that has helped us ride this out well. One thing that I constantly practice, I’m doing it right now, and I encourage everybody, any professional or anybody who’s getting on any the virtual platform, on Zoom, on Teams, on any of them, is to turn off your self-view. Get on and make sure you look good and sound good. In Zoom, it’s in the upper right-hand corner and that little blue box, you can hit it. There’s a dropdown that says, “Hide self-view.” You’re not turning your video camera off. Your audience can still see you, but you are not distracted by you.

There is very little time in real life that we sit in front of a mirror, look at ourselves and talk to someone else. As an actress, I can tell you there are scenarios that I do that like when I’m in the dressing room and I’m putting my makeup on for the show, and I’m talking to someone else. Other than that, we don’t do it in real life. It uses so much of our brainpower to see ourselves, critiques ourselves, get distracted by ourselves. Unfortunately, the voice in our head of like, “I don’t look good and my hair is crazy. What is happening with my lip gloss?” is much louder for women for some reason. However, men, women, however you identify, turn off your self-view. You are going to save your brain and allow yourself to connect with your audience even in a more present manner.

Tell good stories; the most powerful stories come from our personal experience and being part of a success or a failure. Click To Tweet

That is such a great tip. I learned that and I have been using that in live meetings because like you said, I said, “I’m losing a little more hair than I thought, what is going on here?” I’m having these thoughts run through my head while I’m in the middle of an important meeting. About a couple of years ago, I learned, “Turn off the damn camera. Just focus on the person you’re with,” and that turned out to be a great tip. I’m glad you brought that up, I had forgotten about it. Thank you for bringing that up. What’s the third tip?

The third tip is to tell good stories. The way that you opened the show, all the stuff I’m talking about, humans love stories, and they love them way more than a boring list of accomplishments or data. Stories do such cool things to our brains, and it makes the information stickier. Anytime when you’re in doubt, if you need to shift the mood of a meeting, if you need to open a presentation, if you need to close a presentation, if you need to hit home on a point hard, tell a good story. A good story has a strong structure and is rooted in the truth. It’s not fictitious unless you’re fully disclosing that you’re telling a fictitious story. The most powerful stories come from our personal experience and being part of a success or a failure. Failure stories are fantastically powerful as well.

When I was going to school in my twenties to learn how to fix color television sets, by the way, I never did fix a single-color TV, but this one instructor had this way of teaching electron flow through circuits where everybody else would teach you to memorize all these things, this guy would tell the story of the pathway to where the electrons were supposed to show up. For me anyway, it completely resonated that I didn’t even have to study in that class because his stories were so good. I love this idea of converting instruction into stories or using the story to illustrate maybe a powerful point in the work that you do. It’s so important. We teach the hero’s journey story format to new clients, even before we work with them, so that when we present, we now have a basis to go from.

Kerri, we are at the point in the interview where I get to ask you some cool personal questions, and those questions I promise won’t embarrass you, but they might make you laugh. The reason is because they’re not questions you’re going to get from anybody else. Here’s the first one. Who, in all of space and time, would you like to enjoy a walk in the park, a quick lunch or an intense conversation with?

First and foremost, it’s going to be a quick lunch. Anytime I’m invited, food is mandatory. I don’t want to demand anybody else eat, but I’m going to eat. It’s going to make me more comfortable if you eat. It’s going to be a quick lunch, and here’s who I know it would be. It is Golda Meir. Do you know who that is?

Of course, what a great answer. I’ve never had anyone say her before. She is amazing. She was someone I studied in high school.

She was described as the First Iron Lady and super strong-willed and straight-talking. My first idea is if it’s a quick lunch and we’re eating, so we need time for chewing but she will get to the goods. I’ll ask a question or she’ll tell me the stuff fast. We’re not going to have to talk about the weather, we’re going to get right to it, and I appreciate that. She was the first for so many things as a woman, as a leader, as a Jew. I have many questions about it.

FTC Kerri | Public Speaking
Public Speaking: Whenever you’re in doubt, if you need to shift the mood of a meeting, if you need to open a presentation, if you need to close a presentation, if you need to hit home on a point hard, tell a good story.


I couldn’t agree with you more. We hear a lot of Steve Jobs on this show, a lot of Jesus Christ on the show. The nice thing about it is even if they’re the same names, everybody has a different reason, which I love. I think you picked an incredible individual. I happened to know about her history, and I followed, if you want to call it a career, her leadership through all these years leading the country of Israel in a sense. I think it’s a great choice. Here’s the second question and I call this the grand finale question. What is it that you are doing or would like to do that truly has the potential to literally change the world?

Mitch, do you know what the number one fear among Americans is, not the world, Americans?

I hear that it’s going to the dentist or public speaking.

The way I want to change the world is by curing or at least lessening the number one fear. Now that you’ve brought it up, it could be public speaking or also going to the dentist because I love going to the dentist. I definitely can help in that area as well. There are many people I talk to, especially when I run into recent graduates of college, typically people in their twenties. They sincerely ask me, “Are these skills learnable? Can I be more confident when I speak? Can I walk in a room and figure out the temperature and alter my messaging?” I believe that these skills are teachable and can be very quickly improved. I want to cure or at least lessen the number one fear that is among Americans. I don’t know the stats in the other countries, but that’s my change the world.

I’d like to go back to something we were talking about because it’s been running through my mind. This is not normally the path I take in the interview. You’re the perfect person to answer this, so that’s why I want to bring it up. When I’m in a presentation or I’m in a coaching session, I lose myself completely. What I mean by that, I have been told I’m channeling, if you will. I’m fully present with who I’m with, whether it’s my audience or my client. I’m not aware of myself at all. In fact, there are times when I’m with a client that the client will say to me, “That was interesting. Can you say that again?” That pops me out of my state and I say, “Say what? What do you mean? What did I say?” What do I do if I’m not even aware of being in the presentation?

The best thing you can do is work on yourself. Get more self-aware and build in those really good habits. Click To Tweet

Tactically, I’m going to recommend that you record it.

I record everything.

This is what some people call your zone of greatness, or in the movie that came out on Disney I believe, Soul. At one point in a movie, they show people that are so in the zone of what they’re doing, musicians, artists and athletes that are in this ethereal soul zone. It’s as if it’s an outer body experience. It may sound like a broken record, but the best thing you can do is work on yourself. Get more self-aware and build in those good habits. Because when you lose yourself as truly present, very clearly mindful, enthusiastic people do, you’re still maintaining a presence and you’re showing up as the shiniest version of yourself still even if you are in the ethereal zone of greatness.

That’s a good answer. Thank you for that. Kerri, we did promise our readers a very wonderful, powerful gift. Tell us what you got.

I have got a little bonus for you. You can head over to GetOvation.com/Bonus21, and it’s a micro-learning series. This is five short videos, all tactical, immediately applicable stuff you can do anywhere from getting rid of those filler words, making good strong eye contact with the camera so it doesn’t feel so weird here in the virtual environment. It’s stuff to help you up your professional presence and your speaker readiness game immediately.

You should go download this right away. We don’t get someone like Kerri on this show very often, and this is a very powerful gift. Kerri, thank you so much. You’ve been incredible. You’ve certainly taught me a lot that I needed to know, and I appreciate it. I’m sure if readers are reading and have stayed with us this long, they did too. We’ll talk again soon, Kerri.

You’re so welcome. Thank you.

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