WeCroak: An app that does what my brain already does

My friend, Kim, alerted me to a new app called WeCroak. It does one simple thing:

Five times per day, at unpredictable intervals, it sends you a message that says:

“Don’t forget, you’re going to die.”

The app was created by Ian Thomas, a 27-year-old freelance app developer, and Hansa Bergwall, a 35-year-old publicist, 

“I would get to the end of the day and realize I’d forgotten the entire day to think about death,” Bergwall said. “And it occurred to me, This is so easy: I could just get my phone to remind me.”

If you know me well, you'll know that Kim alerted me to the app not because I needed to be reminded that I am going to die but because it's something I think about all the time. In fact, when I read about the app and saw that it offered five reminders per day, I thought, "Five? That's it? I think about death five times an hour!"

And that's truly a conservative estimate.

The result of two near-death experiences and an armed robbery that included a gun to my head and the trigger being pulled has left with a persistent, constant, existential bell ringing in my head at all times. And it's not an entirely bad thing. The never-ending reminder that I will someday die has caused me to be relentless in terms of pursuing my goals and making every moment count.

It's the thing that forces me out of my chair when Charlie asks me to play. It's the thing that compels me to pick up my tall, gangly nine year-old daughter every time she asks. It's what keeps the TV turned off when there is a book to write or a story to tell. It's what sends me to the gym on an almost daily basis, hoping to stave off the inevitable. It's why I drive to New York on a Tuesday night to perform despite the fact that I will arrive home in the wee hours of the morning and still be out of bed by 5:00 AM. It's what causes me to say yes to the craziest proposals.   

The constant ringing of my existential bell keeps me moving. Forces me to look forward. Insists that I make every moment count. 

But it's also what produces anxiety in me when times goes by and progress is not made. It's the thing that breaks my heart when I ponder all that will be lost when I die. It's why I can be so happy with my life while also be in a constant state of perpetual dissatisfaction.

Sometimes it's crushing to my soul.  

I'm not sure if it's something I would ever wish upon someone, though I have met people who wish they could experience life similarly.  

I once gave a Ted Talk once that attempted to offer the benefits of an ongoing existential crisis without all the angst and despair. I tried to thread the needle, so to speak. 

So although I didn't need the WeCroak app, I downloaded it anyway, much to Elysha's exasperation. I receive my reminder five times a day, accompanied by a quote meant to encourage “contemplation, conscious breathing or meditation” but does not.

I thought it would be amusing.

Then one night a couple weeks ago I was driving to Queens for a Moth StorySLAM. Though I had left with more than enough time, traffic was giving me fits. About an hour into my drive, it looked like I might be late for the slam, which meant I would have no chance to perform onstage. 

I considered turning back. If I arrived in Queens late, I was going to be upset. Yes, I would still hear some great stories and visit with some good friends, but my primary purpose was to tell a brand new story that I liked a lot. Try to win. Gain access to another Moth GrandSLAM championship.

If none of that was going to happen, maybe I should turn around now and spend the night reading to my kids, working on a book, and sitting beside Elysha. Why risk another 90 minutes or more on the road, plus a return trip, for nothing? 

I looked down at my phone to see what my estimated time of arrival was. On my screen was a message:

“Don’t forget, you’re going to die.”  

That was it. I dropped the phone and pushed onward, hell bent on making it to the slam on time. 

I did. I arrived just in the nick of time. I dropped my name in the hat.
I got chosen to tell my story.
I won. 

Would I have turned around had I not seen that message?

Maybe. I would've at least pondered the decision a little more. Debated its merits. Wondered if the possibility of not having a chance to take the stage was worth all this trouble.

WeCroak at least cemented a decision I probably would've made anyway. Maybe. 

It turns out that even someone as crazed and obsessed with death can use a reminder every now and then.

Maybe you could, too. 

How I delivered an inspirational talk at a human trafficking conference (while knowing nothing about human trafficking)

I was speaking to some of my former storytelling students - children of Holocaust survivors who had gone through a workshop series with me  that culminated in a storytelling performance.

One of them told me, "Now I see stories everywhere. Everything is a story."

While I don't agree that everything is a story, I knew exactly what she meant. Our lives are filled with storyworthy moments. More than you would ever imagine. Those who mine their lives for these moments and develop them into a treasure-trove of stories constantly add depth and breadth to our lives and their own. 

We are the ones who remember our lives best. We remember our lives through story. 

But possessing so many stories has an added value. When you have a lot of stories, you have the potential to inspire, amuse, entertain, or change minds, regardless of circumstances. No matter the context or need, you'll always have something to say. 

A couple years ago, I was in Indiana, speaking and performing at a variety of events at college campuses in and around Purdue University. I spoke about storytelling, writing, and personal productivity, and I produced and hosted a story slam for students.

A large conference on human trafficking was also underway on campus. I was asked if I'd be willing to close the conference with a speech to the attendees. 

I agreed.

Two weeks before the speech, one of the organizers called and asked about my expertise in human trafficking.

"I have none," I said,

I'll never forget what he said:

"I guess that's what Google is for?" he said nervously. "Right?"


It turns out that when you have a treasure-trove of stories, you can speak to almost any audience regardless of the topic, purpose, or need. 

Besides, after three days of speeches, breakout groups, and seminars on the topic of human trafficking, did his audience really want one more speech on human trafficking from a guy who had to conduct a Google search on the subject?

Instead, I told a funny story about how I helped a shy student emerge from her shell after years of withdrawal, and in doing so, I came to realize that although I had "saved" this one girl, there were many other shy, silent children who I had not, primarily because I had stopped trying. I had given up on them. I had presumed that someone else would come along and fix their problem. 

Once the story was finished, I explained that when engaged in important work like teaching or seeking to end human trafficking - people work - we can never give up. We can never quit. We cannot assume that someone else will solve the problems.

More importantly, we can't afford to act slowly. We are not making widgets or selling keepsakes. The quality of a human being's life is in our hands. The very last thing we can do is allow bureaucrats, politicians, and ineffective administrators tell us that meaningful change takes time. Institutional transition can't happen overnight. We can't allow ineffective leaders to tell us that large ships don't change their direction overnight. 

This might be fine if you're selling real estate, building furniture, or coding an app, but when you're dealing with the lives of human beings, these passive, placating statements cannot be allowed to stand. 

As a teacher, I cannot be slow to action when a child's future is at stake. I cannot stop trying to save a child simply because every tool in my belt has failed.

Like me, the people who work to end human trafficking cannot afford to move slowly. Cannot waste a moment of time. The people of the world who choose to make a career out of saving lives must be the fastest, hardest, most dedicated people possible. They must be red tape destroyers. Bureaucratic assassin. Fast moving missiles of good.

I knew nothing about human trafficking except that it was too important to not work like hell to bring it to an end. Happily, I had a story that applied similarly and was filled with stakes, humor, and heart. 

It went over very well. The organizer called me the following week to tell me that it was the only time all week that anyone laughed and that my message was heard loud and clear by conference attendees:

We are human saving warriors. We must move at lightning speed. We cannot allow anyone to stand in our way or even slow us down. Human lives are at stake.   

If you are a person with a treasure trove of stories, you can speak anywhere about just about anything. It's hard for me to imagine someone calling tomorrow and asking me to speak on a topic that I couldn't find an entertaining, enlightening story and associated message that would work.    

Want to become a person full of stories? I recommend Homework for Life:

One person is listening. Perhaps more, but at least one. I'm so pleased.

I was asked by many people on Monday morning about the AFC championship game that I attended on Sunday night. One of the most frequently asked questions was:

"What time did you get home?"

I arrived home on Sunday night around 1:00 AM, but I explained that it was fairly early given the fact that I often arrive home from night games well after 3:00 AM.

Most people have a hard time understanding how I manage this. They also question my sanity when they learn that I will drive to a Moth StorySLAM in Brooklyn, downtown Manhattan, or Boston on a weeknight to maybe tell a five minute story and arrive back home after 1:00 AM.

I have always been a proponent of saying yes when opportunities present themselves, regardless of the sacrifice required.

I am also a proponent of living your life with the perspective of the 100 year old version of yourself.

I know that this advice is good. I know it would make people considerably happier if they followed it. I know that I'm right.

So often, I wonder if anyone is ever listening.

A couple years ago I met a teacher while speaking at her school. Over the past year, she's begun to listen to my advice and take it to heart.

She began by saying yes to taking the stage and telling of a story for Speak Up. This was not an easy thing for her to do, but since then, she's become a Speak Up regular and fan favorite.  

Shortly thereafter, she went to New York and told her first story in a Moth StorySLAM. The next day, she wrote to me about my philosophy of saying yes regardless of the sacrifices required:

"It's the greatest lesson you ever taught me. I'm trying so hard to fight my natural instincts to say no and just say yes. It's annoying how right you always are."

Needless to say I enjoyed that email a lot. 

Last weekend she traveled to Washington, DC to participate in the Woman's March. 

On her way home, she wrote:  

"Learning to live life the Matthew Dicks way. Man, your way is exhausting."

It's true. It can be exhausting. It's not always easy. And it doesn't always work out. Sometimes I drive to Brooklyn for a Moth StorySLAM and never take the stage. Sometimes the Patriots lose a big game, and the long, late night drives home become much more difficult. Sometimes I say yes to something that I must later change to a no when I realize how much I hate it.  

But the willingness to take risks, step outside your comfort zone, brave the elements, forgo sleep, face uncertainty, and suffer possible failure are all superior to a lifetime of regret.

One of the most common regrets expressed by people at the end of their lives, recorded by hospice workers, is this:

I wish that I had let myself be happier.

From Business Insider:

"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

The question people didn't ask me about the AFC championship game (but should've asked me) was this:

What will you remember most about the game?

The list is long. Tom Brady's flea flicker, the way Legarrette Blount carried half of the Steelers team to the goal line, and the huge goal line stand by the Patriots defense will always remain in my mind.

But my favorite part?

Midway through the third period, with the Patriots in the lead, Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" began booming through the stadium during a timeout. The entire stadium became to sing. A second later, the big screens showed Jon Bon Jovi in one of Gillette Stadium's luxury suites, singing along with us. The crowd roared. Bon Jovi raised his hands and began conducting the crowd as if we were his orchestra. When the music stopped as the Steelers broke the huddle, 60,000 people continued to sing a cappella, finishing the song as Pittsburgh ran a play. 

It was a joyous moment. One of the happiest moments I've experienced in a stadium where I have watched games for more than a decade.

Had I been sitting on my couch at home, warm and dry instead of wet and cold, I would've missed that moment, and what a tragedy that would have been.

Perhaps others have tried to adopt the "Matthew Dicks way" over the years. Maybe they've listened to me speak or watched my TED Talks and changed the way they approach life. 

At least one person has, and for today at least, that is enough for me. 

Best introduction ever

I find myself speaking on stages quite often these days. Prior to taking the stage, I am often introduced by a host of some sort, and the introductions are often quite lovely. Kind words, generous anecdotes, and long lists of accomplishments.

It's great to hear someone speak so highly about you in such a public way, but it can also be a little daunting. It sets a very high bar for my performance and raises expectations considerably.  

Sometimes a low bar is a very good thing. 

The best introduction I have ever received was for a TED Talk last year. A couple minutes before taking the stage, the emcee asked me how I wanted to be introduced. I said, "How about telling them that I'm one step above an idiot? Let's set a low bar."

I never thought she would listen to me. She had my bio in hand. But as she took the stage to introduce me, she said, "Our next speaker is Matthew Dicks. He describes himself as one step above an idiot."

It was perfect.

As I walked over to that classic TED red circle, the audience was already laughing. I had made them laugh without saying a word.

I had also demonstrated a combination of self deprecation and confidence that I know is appealing to most people.

Best of all, her introduction set a low bar. Rather than the bestselling novelist who has won 28 Moth StorySLAMs and was once named Teacher of the Year, I was just a regular guy trying to do a good job. 

My wife and in-laws were in the audience that day, and they questioned my choice of introduction, and rightfully so. When you love someone, you don't love hearing them referred to as "one step above an idiot," and it's probably not an introduction I can get away with again.

But for that one day, I couldn't imagine a better way to take the stage.   

Resolution update: November 2016


1. Don’t die.

I still have fluid trapped behind my eardrum after more than a month, making it impossible to hear out of my left ear, and now I think it might kill me. I am losing my mind.  

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I gained three more pounds in November, mostly because extenuating circumstances have kept me from the gym. Twelve pounds down and eight to go. Looking unlikely... 

3. Do at least 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups five days a week.


4. Practice yoga at least three days a week.

My shoulder is fully healed. I am ready to begin. I plan to jumpstart my yoga practice at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in a week. 


5. Complete my fifth novel before the end of February.


6. Complete my sixth novel.

I have two novels that are more than halfway finished and one that is finished but requires a complete re-write. However, I'm not sure if any of these will be my next novel.

Not surprising, my editor has some say in this.

I turned in final revisions on my next book today, so the decision process begins next week. The book will not be finished by the end of the year. 

7. Write a proposal for a middle grade novel.

Done! The editor and her team love the book. Some minor revisions are needed, and then we hope to have an offer.

I begin those revisions next week. 

8. Write at least three new picture books. 

One of my now former students and I are writing a picture book. Now that we are back in school, work has commenced again. Our first draft should be completed soon. 

In November, I wrote a picture book about the Presidential election that I sent to my agent and a children's book editor. Both had very good things to say about the book but feel that it is too closely aligned with a specific moment in history to be marketable.

I was disappointed. I think it's a great book. I'm thinking of finding an illustrator and creating a version of the book online.   

One more picture book to go. I've already started writing it.  

9. Complete a book proposal for a book on storytelling.

Done! Five chapters are finished now, plus an outline and comparisons have been re-sent to my agent. She LOVES it. Hopefully a publisher loves it just as much.  

10. Write a new screenplay

No progress yet. I could bang out an idea in a week if I really apply myself. 

11. Write a musical for a summer camp

Done! I had the pleasure of watching the musical performed at the summer camp, and it was fantastic.

12. Publish at least one Op-Ed in The New York Times.

I've submitted two Op-Ed pieces to the New York Times and been rejected both times.

I am still working on a new piece. I hope to submit this month.

13. Publish an article in an educational journal.

No progress yet. 

14. Submit one or more short stories to at least three publishing outlets.

No progress yet.

15. Select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences on the blog.

I spent a week backing my car into parking spots (which initially struck me as insane) and wrote about it in August. It actually received a lot of attention from readers.

In September I engaged in a month of daily affirmations. I am nearly finished writing about my experience.   

In November, I engaged in the "sport" of bottle flipping, which is all the rage amongst many young people. I will also be writing about my experience this month.  

16. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 1,000.

Done! My subscriber list now stands at 1,220 readers. My list has grown by 34% in 2016. 

If you'd like to join the masses and receive my monthly newsletter, which contains a writing and storytelling tip, an Internet recommendation, book recommendations, free giveaways, and more, subscribe here:

17. Collaborate with a former colleague on an educational book.

This project has been cancelled. After meeting with my collaborator, we determined that I am not best suited for this project.  

Oddly enough, that collaborator is now my principal. 


18. Produce a total of 12 Speak Up storytelling events.

Done! We produced a show at Real Art Ways in November, bringing our total number of shows to 17 in 2016. Two more shows scheduled in December.

19. Deliver a TED Talk.

Done twice over! 

I spoke at TEDxNatick in January. The title of the talk was "Live Your Life Like Your 100 Year-Old Self." 
Here's the recording: 

I also spoke at the TEDx conference at The Country School in Madison, CT in April. The title of the talk was "Speak Less. Expect More."  
Here is the recording:

20. Attend at least 15 Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

Done! In October, I attended a Moth StorySLAM at Oberon in Cambridge. This brings my total number of Moth events in 2016 to 24.

21. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

Done! I attended one StorySLAM in November and won (four slams in a row now), bringing my total number of wins to four for 2016 and 27 overall.

22. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

Done! I won the Moth GrandSLAM in Somerville in March. 

23. Launch at least one new podcast.

I have a name. I have begun recording episodes. I still need a logo and I'll be ready to publish.

24. Launch a storytelling project that I will otherwise remain vague about here but will become a primary focus of 2016. 

Work on this project is specifically tied to the sale of my storytelling book. 


25. Host at least one Shakespeare Circle.

No progress.

26. Learn to cook three good meals for my wife.

I cooked two new meals for Elysha in August thanks to Blue Apron and a friend who was kind enough to pass on meals to me.

I made barbecue pork burgers with onion straws and corn on the cob. I also made curried catfish with coconut rice, green beans, and a raisin chutney. 

I could easily make both again. 

One meal to go. I have an idea.  

27. Plan a 25 year reunion of the Heavy Metal Playhouse.

I'm still seeking a location for the reunion near the Heavy Metal Playhouse (since the apartment complex does not have a room to rent) and will then decide upon a date.


28. Replace the 12 ancient, energy-inefficient windows in our home with new windows that will keep the cold out and actually open in the warmer months.

No progress. 

29. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

No progress. I was hoping Elysha would take care of this. 

30. Set a new personal best in golf.

I played one round of golf in November and shot a 51.

As stated previously, I have begun a serious and committed change of my swing under the guidance of a friend who also happens to be an outstanding teacher. As a result, I am hitting the ball farther, higher, and less consistently.

I also have a new grip that I will practice all winter long. 

31. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

I played one game back in April. This saddens me. 

32. Do not speak negatively about another person's physical appearance except when done in jest with my closest friends. 

Done. A wife asked me to comment on her husband's recent weight gain,  but I refused, stating my belief about avoiding commenting on the physical appearance of others.   

Here's a potentially new idea for next year: 

I will not comment on physical appearance - good or bad - in any way unless I am speaking to my wife and children. I already adhere to this policy in the classroom as a teacher, so why not expand it throughout my life? 

My goal is to reduce the amount of attention paid to physical appearance in this society, shifting attention to things that truly matter: words and actions. I understand that one man's crusade may not change the world, but perhaps it will change my world and influence those around me. 

Change often starts small. Sometimes it begins with a single person. And I believe in this cause.  

I'm not sure about this goal yet, but I'm considering it. Thoughts?

33. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month.


TEDxTheCountrySchool: Speak Less. Expect More.

This is a TEDx Talk that I delivered in April of 2016 at The Country School in Madison, CT. The conference was run almost exclusively by the students of the school, who were of middle and high school age.

It's a variation of a talk that I have delivered before about the idea that teachers should be speaking less in their classrooms and expecting more from their students. 

When kids rule the world, it will be a fantastic place. But perhaps not always professional.

The TEDx conference at The Country School where I spoke last week was interesting in that it was run by students to a great degree.

Kids greeted me at the door. Kids organized the ancillary activities taking place in between talks. Kids assisted me with my tech. There were kids onstage reading poetry. The host of the conference was a kid.

Given that my talk was on the importance of expecting more from kids, I loved the high level of student involvement in the conference.

There was no better sign that kids were running the conference than the "reserved" sign that was placed on my seat by one of the student organizers. 

Simple. Effective. But definitely designed by a kid. 

TEDx Berkshires: Homework for Life

Watch my most recent TEDx Talk, "Homework for Life," below. 

In this talk, I discuss a simple strategy - stumbled upon accidentally - that you can use to slow down time, find greater meaning in your life, and give your future self one of the best gifts imaginable. And if you're a storyteller - on the stage or at the dinner table - there is an immeasurable bonus.  

All I ask is for five minutes a day.  

TEDxNatick: "Live Life Like Your 100 Year-Old Self"

I'll be speaking at TEDxNatick at the Natick High School in Natick, MA on January 23, 2016. 

The conference begins at 9:30 AM and wraps at 3:30 PM. Lunch is provided. Tickets to the conference are selling fast. They can be purchased here

I will be speaking on the topic: "Live Life Like Your 100 Year-Old Self." 

A list of other speakers can be found here


Worst TEDx luck ever

I have spoken at four TEDx conferences over the past three years.

None have turned out exactly as I had hope. 

In 2013, I delivered a talk at TEDx Litchfield called "Speak Less. Expect More." The talk actually went extremely well. A representative from TED told me that he loved it and thought it had a chance on getting on the TED channel. Then we discovered that the sound on the recording of the talk was compromised. You can understand what I'm saying, but it ain't easy.

That same year, I spoke at a TEDx Western Connecticut State University on the topic of personal productivity. Once again, the talk went very well. I was excited to see the results.

The organizers - all college students - never posted any of the videos to the TEDx site. They posted photos to a Flickr album, though. 

Not really the same at all.

In 2014 I delivered a talk entitled "Say Yes" at TEDx Somerville. This talk also went well, and the organizers were tremendous in their preparation and execution. Even the recording of the talk is solid. But the timer on stage was incorrectly set for 9 minutes (my originally allotted amount of time) instead of the revised 15 minutes that I had been assigned, and since a TED Talk can never exceed 18 minutes, I suddenly had no way of judging how long I was speaking or if I was even supposed to be speaking for 15 minutes.

I should've waited. Asked for the timer to be set properly. Taken a moment to ensure that everything was ready before I opened my mouth. I didn't. 

You may watch this talk and see nothing amiss, but when I watch the recording, I see myself rushing through sections, dropping entire sections out of the talk, and generally disengaged with the material. I was so consumed with the mental gymnastics required to change the content of the talk mid-speech that it wasn't the performance that it could've been.  

It wasn't a bad talk by any stretch of the imagination. I've received a great deal of positive feedback as a result of the talk and the subsequent video.

But it wasn't exactly what I wanted.

This year I spoke at TEDxBU on the topic of education. Once again, the talk went extremely well. I heard from many people in the days following the talk, telling me how much it meant to them. But when the video of the talk was released a couple weeks ago, I learned that the first minute of the talk was lost due to technical malfunctions and one of the cameras was not running at all. The video looks terrible, and the loss of the first minute makes the rest of the talk a mess. I couldn't bring myself to even watch the whole thing.

I'm currently being considered for two TEDx Talks in 2016. 

All I want is an opportunity to speak and end up with a quality recording of the talk that I had originally planned on delivering.

I never thought a goal like this would be so damn hard to achieve.

11 thoughts on yesterday’s TEDxBU event, including observations from the restrooms and my advice for future TED speakers.

A few observations from yesterday’s TEDxBU talk at Boston University.


1. I will never understand what possesses organizers like Ben Lawson and Salma Yehia to give up hundreds of hours of their time to pull off an event like this. I have spoken at four TEDx events in the past three years, and in each case, I am astounded by the level of coordination, leadership, and effort required. I am so happy that there are people like Salma and Ben who are willing to give of themselves and their time. They are better people than me.


2. I only accidentally went into the women’s restroom once yesterday, which was good for me.

3. TED events use hands-free, wireless microphones. I despise these microphones. They are unreliable and do not afford the speaker the level of nuance and modulation that a traditional microphone affords. My microphone was fine yesterday, but give me an old fashioned corded mic on a stand any day.  

4. Speaking of restrooms, an astounding number of young men did not wash their hands after using the restroom yesterday. Is this some kind of millennial thing?

5. Walking around with a TEDxBU speaker badge causes every person at Boston University to want to talk to you and assume that you are far more intelligent than you really are. I think I’m going to wear my speaker badge in public from now on.

6. As a TED talk veteran, many of the speakers asked me for advice. Since it was too late to give any input on the content of their talk, I gave them these three speaking tips:

  • Speak slowly.
  • A well placed pause is a beautiful thing. It allows the audience to digest your content and allows you to center yourself before proceeding. Don’t be afraid to just stop and breathe.
  • If your microphone does not sound perfect when you begin, stop and get your tech fixed before restarting. The audience will always accept a two minute delay in exchange for a speaker who sounds clear and strong.

7. If I was going to give my admittedly biased advice on the content of a successful TED talk, I would say the following:

  • Fewer PowerPoint slides are better. Make your talk so compelling that you do not require slides. If the projector fails and your PowerPoint is corrupted by the bird flu, you should still be able to present a compelling and engaging talk.
  • Fewer numbers are better. Use story instead of statistics. Contextualize.
  • Ask yourself this question: How much of this talk is story and how much is expository. Your story-to-expository ratio should be 2:1 at minimum.
  • By the end of your talk, your audience should know the people mentioned in your talk. They should know their names and personalities and wants and needs. Otherwise, why did you mention them at all?
  • Include humor. Make your audience laugh early. It will boost your confidence and make your audience believe that they are in safe hands.

8. I was asked by two people if I had a startup. I found this question very strange. My response:

“Yes. Four books and two children. Want to invest?”

Ironically, it was later pointed out by a friend that Speak Up is much closer to being a true startup than my books or children.

9. It’s a small, small world. I mentioned my former poetry professor, the late Hugh Ogden, in my talk as a teacher who changed my life. It turns out that one of the other speakers lived on the same street as Hugh as a child and knew him well.

10. I was identified by the organizers on their website as a teacher, writer, blogger, storyteller, minister, life coach, and DJ. The vast majority of the people who spoke to me were most interested in my career as a DJ – until they learned that I was a wedding DJ and not spinning records in a club.

11. This was the first time in a long time when I was not on stage in a t-shirt and hat. I didn’t like it. Still, I wore jeans and was the envy of two of my fellow speakers.