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  • Writer's pictureLoryn

Telling Stories One Speech At A Time With Francisco

I recently had the opportunity to exclusively interview Francisco Mahfuz about five random facts about himself, what inspired him to be a public speaker. Plus what he's currently working on . Check out my interview with Francisco below:

Loryn: What inspired you to become a public speaker?

Francisco: Being terrible at networking! What happened was that I had asked a client of mine to refer me to some of his friends, and he said “well, I can actually take you with me to this public speaking club I’m a member of, Toastmasters, you’ll meet lots of people there. So I went, never got any business out of it, but fell in love with public speaking! The second part of the story is that I spent years dedicating a lot of time and energy to speaking, but never thought of doing it professionally. Friends asked me about it, especially after I became a National Champion of Public Speaking (yes, there is such a thing!), but I always said “maybe someday.” And then I found out I was going to have a second child, and decided that if anything was going to happen it would have to start soon, or I’d never find the time or energy to do it again. It’s somewhat ironic that right after I finally decided to go for it, Corona virus ended all public speaking as we know it, but that’s what I get for waiting so long!

Loryn: How can public speakers differentiate themselves?

Francisco: There’s this quote from Sally Hogshead I love: “You don't have to change who you are, you have to become more of who you are”. And that’s it, really: speakers have to find what’s undeniably them, and go all in on that. Some people are motivational, some are funny, some are weird, some are persuasive – everyone is stronger in some area, but we all have a voice that is very much ours. Think about why your friends enjoy your company, and that’s a good start to figuring out what side of your personality you need to bring to the stage. Public speaking can be so challenging that it’s only by feeling comfortable with yourself that you’ll ever be able to feel comfortable on stage. And, when you do that, the audience recognises your vulnerability, and your authenticity, and they connect with you. 

Loryn: What do you believe makes up a good story?

Francisco: You need your characters and challenges to be relatable so people can see themselves in the story. Of course you can have crazy settings (like science-fiction often does), but it all comes down to someone that could be you, trying to overcome a problem you can understand. You need specific details to ground the story, for people to feel it’s true, that you know what you’re talking about. If you think of LinkedIn, for example, mentioning the hour after posting, a salesy DM or weird connection requests will make people go “yes, I know exactly what you mean!” It also helps add colour and make the story more memorable (“the only thing he was wearing was some faded Superman underwear”). You also need at least one specific moment where the story focuses on, otherwise it just feels too distant. Usually that moment is what the story revolves around, the rest is what came before and what happened after. That’s why history books were so boring, no specific moments, just the overview of what happened. Finally, you need emotion. Your character (or characters) need to experience something genuine, otherwise no one will care. It doesn’t need to be dramatic, but it needs to feel real, we need to understand that there is something at stake. That’s why most stories revolve around conflict.Once you have those elements, show us what life looked like before (Setup), then something happens (Change) and life is different afterwards (Consequence).

Loryn: What is something you are currently working on?

Francisco: A number of things, actually! I’m launching a podcast in the next few weeks and I’m busy recording enough episodes to give me a good head start. I’m also getting a new speaker video ready, and changing a few things on my website. Finally, I’m (slowly) figuring out how to get my speaking moved online, as it doesn’t look like live speaking will come back any time soon!

Loryn: What is something that not many people know about you? 

Francisco: There isn't much, as I’m usually very open about everything. Some of my friends will say I’m too open, they wouldn't mind me keeping some things to myself! I could say that I’m Brazilian, and have a degree in English Literature, but those are lame and you can find them in my profile. But here’s one that will probably sound familiar to many people: for someone who comes across as very extroverted and confident, I can actually be super anxious about any type of performance and I prepare almost obsessively as a way to compensate. If it’s important in any way I write it as early as I can, rehearse it endlessly and I’m a pile of nerves up until the moment when I’m on stage (or recording). It’s obviously a helpful quality to have, but it’s also mentally and emotionally draining. Some of that has gotten better with experience, as I don't need to get anxious about figuring out the steps in the process, but if I skip any of them, or can’t give them enough time, the anxiety hits me in full force. It’s also very unpleasant physically, as the adrenaline makes me feel jittery and unsettled. Maybe one more decade of speaking will sort that out!

Be sure to stay updated with Francisco Mahfuz by checking out his website: contact with him on LinkedIn under the name Francisco Mahfuz

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