At the core of any successful nonprofit is a powerful story. Growing and engaging supporters is all about sharing that story with others and making them believe in your cause as much as you do. So how do you find and tell that meaningful story?
Brenden Kumarasamy is the founder of Master talk, a YouTube series dedicated to the art of public speaking. Brenden believes anyone can become confident public speakers and storytellers. From students to CEO’s Brenden teaches you how to master your speeches, presentations and solicitations.
In our podcast, Brenden covers how to
- Get over your nerves and speak with confidence
- Motivate your audiences to give to your cause
- Develop the mentality that the top 1% of speakers have and how you can think like them
Storytelling is essential, but so is finding and managing your audience. Your appeals, solicitations, marketing campaigns and newsletters all rely on how your organization tells your story. Using a robust CRM to deliver that message will make sure your audience receives the right story at the right time all while tracking your progress.
Hello and welcome to the Fundraising Superheroes podcast. A podcast celebrating non-for-profit organizations and all the people who work to make the world a better place.
As always, I'm your host, Sabrina Sciscente, and this show is brought to you by Donor Engine. An all in one non-profit management software built to help you manage your volunteers, team and donor data, visit donorengine.com to learn more.
Storytelling is at the core of your cause. Every nonprofit has a story to tell that connects you to your donors, volunteers and other supporters. But for nonprofits just starting out, how do you find the courage to tell that story? Where do you begin to craft that message?
Brendan Kumarasamy is the founder of Master Talk, a YouTube channel that he started to help the world master the art of public speaking and communication. He's helped so many purpose-driven entrepreneurs achieve their milestones in life and master their message. I'm very excited to have him on the show today to talk about how we can become better storytellers and public speakers. So thank you, Brendan, for coming onto the show.
Of course, it's my pleasure to be on Sabrina.
Can you start off by telling us a bit about yourself, your story, what made you want to create Master Talk?
Of course. So when I was at university, I used to compete in these things called Case Competitions, think of it like professional sports, but for nerds. So instead of playing football or soccer or baseball, you know, on a university sports team like other guys my age did.
I did the same thing, but with presentations. So in the three years that I was in university, I presented over 500 times. I coached 100 hundred people on public speaking, and I probably competed in like 50 or 60 of these things. And I just loved every second of it. So while other people were watching sports games I was watching presentations from other universities, it’s really weird to honest. But when I graduated, I ended up in the corporate world. I asked myself a new question that I hadn't asked myself ever, really, which was how do I use my time and expertise to make an impact in the world?
How do I use my unique gifts and talents to do something important? And that's when the idea for the channel came to be because I realized that a lot of the content that's available for free on public speaking honestly sucks. It's pretty bad. So a lot of people who want to make a difference in the world, especially if you're nonprofit CEO or really someone who doesn't have a budget for a professional speech coach like myself, I thought about what if I can create videos that people can learn from anyways and be the back end of every change maker.
So that's when a Master Talk came to be.
Yeah, because public speaking is one of those things that doesn't come naturally to everyone. I mean, I love pitching. I love speaking. But there are always people in my group projects that were terrified and it's hard to show them how to build that confidence. And your videos are amazing at doing so. I got the chance to watch a few. And for those listening, if you're struggling at all in public speaking, Brenden brings it down tremendously well.
I appreciate that
Storytelling is at the basis of a nonprofit organization.
You're convincing someone to believe in your cause as much as you do. So donors need to see themselves as the heroine in the story that you're telling them. Pitching your nonprofit can be very stressful. So how should people ace that pitch, where do they begin?
So I think a great way of starting this conversation especially since everyone's a change-maker who's listening right now is we need to look at the advantages of speaking. Why do we speak in the first place? Why do we need to share our message with the world? The answer is simple. Your public speaking "why" is to expand your mission. To get millions of people involved rather than a few hundred. And the only way to scale that message to a lot more people is through public speaking, whether it's through podcasts like this one, a video that you make for your donors as a thank you, a video that explains your story, or the CEO of the company yourself who goes out and pitches to raise money and funding, whether it's from sponsors or conferences that you attend.
So my understanding, public speaking as a mechanism for change, as a way to scale or ideas that matter and or causes that matter. That's when the exhilarating feeling and the reason that you want to speak in the first place because the issue with speaking in general is we are our school system and our lives have taught us that public speaking is a chore. That's a responsibility. "Oh got a present in class for this grade". "Oh, I got a present at work to make sure my boss isn't upset at me".
We're not trying to imagine what's possible with public speaking And that was where I believe the first step to mastering it becomes.
That's a fantastic mindset to have. So it's really all about channelling that fear of getting up in front of a hundred people, possibly, and just thinking about the impact you're making and focusing on the positive change.
Absolutely. And then after you do that and you get really clear about that intention because trust me, it's very important to be clear, since you're going to be presenting that same thing over and over again and presenting your cause and what you care about. The next step becomes understanding how to practice properly. So when you think about learning a new skill, whether it's a new instrument, a video, if you want to go on YouTube like me or you want to learn a new recipe at home, you're always focused on the fundamentals.
So learning piano is a good example of this. Sure, when you get started, you can practice 100 different songs. But the thing that gives you the most confidence is when you can play one song and show off to your friends that, "hey, you know what, I know how to play the piano”. I know this one song. And then by impressing your friends, you can learn to play every other song in the playbook. But we don't apply that rationale and that logical mind step here to public speaking.
It's Wednesday. Your boss, your client, your teacher, or your donor, in this case, says, "hey, you know, Sabrina I need a presentation for Friday”. So then you start to panic. You start to get the presentation together. You present the presentation and then you take the presentation and throw it in the garbage and never look at it again. And that's where the fundamental issue lies.
And a good case study I can give you all to check on is Scott Harrison's Charity Water, so Charity Water is a non-profit I personally support. But I think what's been interesting about the way that Scott, Scott's the CEO of the non-profit, and how he's managed these relationships with these donors, is he presents the same thing every time when he keynotes. He probably keynotes around 75 to 100 times a year. And every time he presents, it's always the same story.
I used to be a nightclub promoter. This is what happened to me. This is how my life changed when I had an epiphany, and this is how I ended up starting the charity in that same way that he does that you need to translate that into your own organization. What is the one speech or one talk that I can just give over and over again as a standard keynote? And the benefit of doing that is if you can pull off presenting it 100 times the 100th time you present, it will be like clockwork.
You'll get everything perfect. Every word will come out exactly the right way. And every tonality and every nuance and silence will be perfectly executed.
So do you feel like people shouldn't be afraid of repeating stories because I know for me as a public speaker, I often get nervous telling the same stories. I feel like I have to keep it fresh in order to keep people engaged, but is there power and having that one strong story?
I love this question. All right. Let's play this out. I've given my personal keynote over 300 times now. Not 3. Not 30. Three hundred. So why do I still feel it's fresh? Why do I not feel as intimidated as some people might have? The reason is Sabrina is because you're always presenting to new audiences. So maybe for you, it's old. You know, man, it's like the tenth time of saying this joke.
But to the new people who are listening to who don't know you yet, they go, wow, Sabrina. That was amazing. And here's a secret that most people don't like to admit or don't actually know yet. From a speaker's perspective is even the people who are re-listening to the same thing a second time or third time, they never complain about your presentation. They always go, you know what? I heard this last time and this is way better. You got so much better.
They still appreciate the talk anyway, so it's a win-win. So there's like a joke that having my keynote called the Julia Joke, it’s a story about a 15-year-old mocking me during one of my presentations. It's hilarious. And I've said that joke probably a hundred and fifty times now. So don't worry, say the same thing.
So you recently were on Trent Bay's podcast Hustle the Day, where you shared a very inspiring story in a keynote speech for a nonprofit in a room of kids, where you found out 15 minutes before presenting that only half spoke English and the other spoke French. Receiving that information shortly before you 're about to present. Sounds terrifying to me, but you didn't let that shake you. I'm sure this is a problem that many nonprofit leaders or founders face, especially when they're a new organization just starting their PR journey and spreading awareness of their cause.
So as you said in the podcast, how can people begin to care enough to crush their fear?
I would say at the end of the day the biggest difference between a top ten percent speaker and a top one percent speaker is just a mindset. Nothing more. So what is that difference of mindset? So the way that I described in that podcast that I'm happy to repeat for this one is if you ask two types of speakers, someone is just getting started. Somebody who doesn't really know why they're speaking. They just got invited for whatever.
And the second speaker who's there on a mission to raise money, to share a message, to share an idea, they want to make sure that message spreads. Well, if you ask that first speaker, hey, John, you found out 15 minutes before your keynote that you've been preparing for months, that you actually have to give it in multiple languages. How do you think? What do you think? Well, John is going to say, well, this sucks.
Like this wasn't my fault. I hate this organizer. I hate my life, and I don't care if I mess up. It's not my fault anyway. But if you ask someone who is exceptional communication, the very same question, what happens if you don't do well? What happens if this goes wrong? How do you feel that the presenter is going to say what do you mean? I have to deliver anyways. I still need to be the best.
So when you ask that person, what do you mean, you've just been given 15 minutes to completely change your keynote? Presenter's they would always respond with, well, the presentation is not about me anyway. There's a bunch of kids in this room who care about something, who are building something important. And if I mess up this presentation, I'm going to reinforce the belief that they'll never master public speaking. And the only way not to make sure that they have that belief is to go up on that stage and absolutely shred that keynote and make sure it's perfect like it always is.
That is the elite presenter’s mindset. It doesn't mean that we're more special. We're more important. And we think we're cool. Being the speaker means that we have the privilege to share something important with people because we have something important to share. So the fundamental question that you need to ask yourself is how much do you actually care? And I think Scott Harrison, in the nonprofit space, is a good example here, and I highly recommend his book for those who haven't read it yet.
But here's an excerpt from the book that I think really showcases his level of insanity for the cause that he cares about. There is a scene in the book where when he was getting started, a lot of the volunteers would send envelopes like specialized personalized envelopes, very like high-quality stuff to a lot of their high net worth donors. And one of the volunteers accidentally made, you know, the stamp that he or she put on the envelope wasn't exactly a 90-degree angle to the envelope.
And he started yelling at them. He said, "What are you doing? You are messing up!” All right, look, I'm not saying this is the right approach at all, and I'm not saying you should yell at your volunteers. But I think it's a good example of somebody who cares so much about saving millions of people's lives that he's willing to go to any length to get that done, even if it means redoing every stamp on an envelope that he needs to re-buy.
So one way that you can build that level obsessiveness, I'm sure at this point you're kind of thinking about, whoa, this is crazy, these two people are nuts. Right?
So how do we bring this back to level one? Level one goes as follows. There are a couple of questions I want you all to think about. Let's go through them. The first one is who suffers from your inability to take action? So every day that you make the decision not to raise money, that you make the decision not to message that extra friend to donate that 30 bucks, that you just desperately need to pay that employee because your donors are starting to go dry a bit.
Who suffers? And the more specific you are about that suffering, the more enticed and motivated you will become to actually get the job done. That's the first thing. So for me, it's not about making money. I have a great job at IBM. It's not really, I never started this Master Talk thing just to make a quick buck. It was there was a bunch of people out there who don't have access to these tools. And I need to do something about it because nobody else is doing it literally, as they all don't share the same quality information that I do.
So it's a calling. It's a vocation. It's not something that I just do for fun in my basement. Right. So that's the first thing. So if you get clear about 16-year-old Julian, what you're doing for her, then you'll get more clear about what you need to do. The second question is how would the world change if you were an exceptional speaker? And the more descriptive you are of that world, the more motivating and incentivized you are to practice communication and storytelling.
Well, if I lived in a world that I was a good communicator, you know, I'd raise more money. But I want you to think more deeply than that. Who whose lives get change? Let's say you're someone who helps impoverished kids in a third world country get access to education. It's not just about getting them the uniforms that they need. It's not just about getting them into classes. It's about giving them a new chance to play the game that they otherwise never would have had if you'd never done something.
It's a lot more than that. And the more you speak into that, the more motivated you become. And the last exercise that is very extreme for most people that actually didn't see the other episode that I will now that you don't have to implement, that will help is you write your own funeral speech. What do you want people to say about you when you're dead? And I think the more concrete you become with that speech, the more motivated you'll be. So those are a couple of thoughts that come to mind.
Do you feel like there's such thing as a perfect audience or would a good speaker be able to convey that need, that demand that they need to help the people that their organization serves?
Basically is there a perfect audience member or can anyone have the potential to be a good audience member?
Interesting question. What I would say is when it comes to audience mastery, the focus should always be on the outcome that you're trying to achieve. So let's say your goal is to raise a bit of money for charity or raise a lot of money for charity, which is the hope that I have for everyone listening.
There's got to be some people in the audience that aren't going to be bought or there's going to be people who go, oh, you know, already donate to these causes and things like that. But your goal, the overarching vision is so important and every speech needs to start with your clear set of outcomes. By the way, whenever your crafting and the intention is you want to grab as many dollars as you possibly can from any given room. So every room that you go into, you need to give your best.
Why? To make this very, very motivating and pressing for people. Because there's only a certain amount of times that you get to present your life. If you present 10 keynotes a year and you're going to live for 40 years. You have 400 shots. If you present 5 times a year and you're only gonna be alive for 20 more years, you literally have 100 hundred presentations left to go to make the difference you want to make. So how are you going to make every presentation count?
And I'll even make this more enticing for people. There's a speech that I give every one of my clients before they present and the speech goes something like this. Every person in the room that you're going to meet, that you're going to speak in front of. Chances are you'll never see them again for the rest of your life. It's just statistically, just on a numbers game. So what are you going to do in that one moment that you're sharing with them in that one small moment, that couple of minutes that you have in their entire lives?
What are you going to say, do or make them feel that makes them take action. And that is the only moment that you will get because after that moment is over after the curtains close, you go on to the next presentation and the next audience who hasn't heard you yet. So when you look at it from that frame of mind, every audience member suddenly becomes a perfect one.
When I'm presenting is that fear of I only get this one shot. But like you mentioned before in the previous questions, if you turn that fear into an opportunity, if you look at it as I have this one chance to really engage this person, I can make a difference. You know, this person can contribute X amount to my organization. It does shift that negative mindset to a positive one and really inspires you to give that great presentation.
Absolutely. And just to be super vulnerable here, I'm happy to talk about my own story. In the sense that I get that public speaking is a scary thing, right? I've clearly jumped a couple of steps. Right. So let's start at the, I guess, level zero when I was five years old, growing up in Montreal. For those who don't know, Montreal is a city that's very peculiar in the sense that you need to know to speak multiple languages, namely French, to be successful.
So my parents put me in a French school for my own benefit. But the issue was my whole life, not only was I uncomfortable presentations, I had to give presentations in a language I didn't even know. So whenever I was in grade two or three, I would just sit there like a wreck because I didn't know how to speak French. So I'd just be dumbfounded. So someone like me can master communication I believe that everybody who's listening can do it too.
You just need to be able to transition from that story to the story you actually want to tell yourself. And even when I started Master Talk, the same thing. That this is coming from someone who presented hundreds of times and is clearly qualified, but at the same time, when I started the YouTube channel, I was only 22. So who am I to share this information with the world? I'm just a kid in my mother's basement. Why am I sharing these tips with people?
So one side of the coin is we're imposters. We don't deserve to be there. We don't deserve to share our message. But that side of the coin isn't interesting for us. What's more interesting is the other side of the coin, which is as follows. If I don't do this, if I make the decision to delay for some artificial reason, that doesn't make sense. Who suffers from that? And for me, it was will every 16 years old who did they have to look up to in the world now as a speaking coach?
The answer, as you probably know, Sabrina, is nobody. There's nobody on YouTube who's in their 20s that is sharing public speaking tips that are better than everything else on the platform. So if I don't do it, literally nobody else will. So every single time when the first CEO approached me to coach him when the first senior executive told me that she wanted my help, obviously I was scared out of my mind. I was 22. I was like, what is so weird?
I was like a kid. Why do they ask me to do this? But the belief system that I had on what I wanted the world to be was more imported than any fear that I had because I knew how to coach them. That wasn't the issue, but it was my own insecurity of saying, well, you know, I'm not as old as them and not as experienced as them. But at the end of the day, people, if we know more than they do if we're one chapter ahead, that makes us more than qualified to coach them.
So what does this leave you? It leaves you with the following idea. If there is something important worth sharing if there is something that needs to be said if there is a cause that's worth fighting for. In the same way, Scott Harrison has been fighting for a problem that literally will never impact any generations of his families to come. Find something worth fighting for. And if you can imagine that world and how we would change if you took action more often than I think you'll be more enticed to watch the videos and follow up with all the tips that I have to share.
Definitely. As a young professional myself, I totally empathize with your story. Like I as somebody who's just starting their career. It's intimidating to go and talk to somebody who's 30, 40, 20 years into their job, who has this incredible library of knowledge.
And, you know, you're going up to them, in my case, to ask for an interview. And it's like, what do I have to offer you? Well, I can give you a platform to tell your story. I have skills in my technical abilities. I am really passionate about hearing where they came from. So, again, I think the mindset that you have to have, not only with public speaking but in life is that you are capable of doing things.
And it's that whole manifestation that will allow you to do better.
I completely agree. And I think one way of kind of explaining this to people is kind of a fun exercise. I ask people who the enemy is a lot like oh, Sabrina who are your enemies? And they always respond with something bizarre, like, oh, you know, my ex-girlfriend or my ex-boyfriend or the guy who cut me off in traffic this morning or my mom or something crazy.
But we're all forgetting when we look at the macro when we look at our lives, that the only enemy and we all have the same one, by the way, spoiler alert. It's time you can throw money at the time. You can yell at the time. You could try and punch time out. You can yell, scream, shout. Time always wins in the at. Time always gets the last lifetime literally controls every day and how you go about it.
So given that thought, given that none of us are going to exist in 100 years anyway, what are we going to do with the rest of it? Now that we know that time is the enemy?
How are we going to defeat it? And the only way to defeat it is to realize that it's the most important thing, not the people who are annoying us on the day to day, not the person who told us to clean our dishes and we forgot to clean them. But the real enemy of doing something important, doing something impactful before our time is up.
One of the best ways to improve having this mindset is learning. How do people juggle being the working professional hosting interview or a YouTube channel and still finding that time to expand their knowledge?
I love the question. So I always like talking about religion rather than tactics. I'm not religious or anything. I meant more like for the sake of the word.
So in the sense of I'm not the guy who's going to say, oh, you know, if you meditate every morning and if you eat yogurt, you're going to be 10 times more productive.
And that's definitely hasn't worked for me and I'm sure doesn't work for most of us. I think the trick of being more productive is to learn to be more insane. And I know this is counterintuitive advice, but hear me out a bit as we go through this example.
Everybody who has done something important with their lives has prioritized every single small element of their lives in a way that's optimized for them. In other words, what I'm trying to say is everyone who makes a difference in the world is fundamentally crazy. Right. So if you think about Scott's example, where he created a charity where 100 percent of all the money goes to programs and he funds the overhead separately in another bank account is delusional. Right, it's crazy.
But he's done that anyways. Or if you look at Steve Jobs or anyone else. So how do we bring this back to us? One of the ways that have made me successful at prioritizing anything that I wanted in life is learning to question everything. So questioning everything means as follows. Why are we saving up for retirement if Steve Jobs died at 56? That doesn't make any sense. If I had all the money in the world, how would I spend my time? By asking yourself these hard questions that most people don't ponder you can start to optimize your life exactly the way you want to, and I'll use myself as an example.
I am the only six-figure earner that to be completely transparent that you will have on this show, Sabrina, that is literally living in his mother's basement, that is sitting on a mattress that doesn't own a car. And that isn't in a relationship and isn't planning on being one for a very long time. All of the decisions I just laid out for you in this example are extremely counterintuitive and most people would find crazy.
Brendan is 24 years old. Why is he living in his basement? He makes six figures, he can just own something. Why is this sitting on his mattress? Can he just buy a table? Why is he doing all this stuff? The answer is simple because my number one priority in life beyond my family and my close, tight-knit friends is making Master Talk work. That is my priority.
I want this to go to millions of people. I don't care if I have to go on a thousand podcasts. I don't care how to go 10000 podcasts. I am going to do whatever I can possibly do to make Master Talk work. But for you, who's listening maybe that's not your priority and that's totally fine. Maybe for you it's you know, Brendon, I need to spend two days a week spending time with my family because that's what's important to me.
And my response to that is awesome. But my challenge in my ask to all of you is to figure out what that is. So an exercise I have for people is we have 168 hours in a week. I want you to spend five minutes today and literally outline how you plan on spending each hour of every week.
And that's how you're going to get clear on how you're spending your time. Because you'll realize that you're spending 10 hours doing Netflix. And Netflix is fine. Ten hours a week. I'm not against that. Just ask yourself if that's what you want to actually be doing once you know that.
Thank you, Brendan.
But unfortunately, that's all the time we have for today. So for our listeners out there to watch Brenden's series Master Talk, visit the link in our podcast description box. If you can tell from our conversation, it's really an excellent tool for anyone who's looking to improve their public speaking or just learn how to ace any presentation. It's a great place to start, Brenden's a terrific teacher. So definitely check that out if you're interested in learning more.
And as always, thank you so much for listening and we'll see you next time on Fundraising Superheroes.