Antonio Meza

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Antonio Meza, the District’s champion of public speaking, was the first person being interviewed by Clarion. It was a pleasure to have him as our first guest, not only because he is a reference speaker of our District, but also because he did a special effort to make room for us and speak with us by Skype.

Toastmasters since 2012, member of the Paris Speech Masters, Antonio represented our District in the last World Championship of Public Speaking. In Las Vegas, Antonio went to the semi-finals, making all of us proud.

By the time this interview was made, Antonio was in China and he was 7 hours ahead of us, that were in Portugal. However, that didn’t stop Antonio to speak with us and share a good moment.

Pedro: Antonio, first things first, what are you doing in China?

Antonio: (Laugh). In China I’m working in two different capacities. I was invited to participate in some seminars as a graphic facilitator. That’s one of the things that I do and there are two different seminars that I’m collaborating. One is called Transcom and it’s a seminar about hypnosis. The other one is called Success Factor Modeling and it’s a seminar based on a book I illustrated. I know the trainers very well since we’ve been working together about one year and a half, so when they are teaching, I’m drawing in my iPad based on what they are teaching. Then, they show the drawings in the next day as a way to review what I’ve been taught, but also to express the experience that people are having. Sometimes I do cartoons of the participants or some illustrations about questions they asked. This way people recognize the experience they had on the day before and it helps them reconnecting with what they learned. A lot of people like it so I also enjoy doing it. When I was invited to visit China I was really happy because I never thought that this kind of work would make me travel so far!

Pedro: It’s amazing… I never heard about such a ‘job’. Do you always use your iPad to draw?

Antonio: Actually, there are a lot of ways to do it. Sometimes I use a whiteboard. I do it often in Paris during seminars. Usually they call it graphic recording, so I’m representing with cartoons and words what is happening and in the end they have this record of the seminar. Other times I do it like I’m doing now, with the iPad. I have special apps and pens to do it, so it’s a fine solution to draw.

Pedro: Great! But Antonio… You said you’re participating in a hypnosis seminar? Can you talk a little more about it?

Antonio: Sure. I’m a trainer in neurolinguistic programming (NLP) and inside of this is included a little bit of Ericksonian hypnosis. It’s a very good tool for coaches and therapists, in fact, to anyone who’s working in supporting people. It enables us to connect with people and to bypass the objections of the rational mind. Then we can understand what people really, really want and have a conversation in a different level, the level of people’s deepest values and believes. In that way, the other person allows himself to explore what they really want and it’s holding them back. In this seminars we have a lot of people who’re coming to learn and use this tool in their professional life, as well as people who want to work on themselves.

Pedro: Is coaching your main occupation?

Antonio: We could say that I’ve two main occupations. If you asked me one year ago, I’d say that I’m a coach and in my spare time I do illustrations. Today, I’d say that illustrations, and as a complementary activity I do coaching. It has been changing because the work I’m doing as illustrator and graphic facilitator has been developing a lot. Now I’m illustrating books and different things, so it takes most of my time and it’s my main income source.

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Pedro: I start feeling that my life is boring… Antonio, how did you end up in a Toastmasters club?

Antonio: As I said I’m a NLP trainer and I was working on my communication skills. I was already offering workshops on body language and then some people that I know told me about Toastmasters as a very good tool for public speaking. I got curious and I went to Paris Speech Masters, that had an announcement on a Meetup page. As I was offering also my workshop on Meetup, I decided to give it a look and I liked it.

I thought it was a really good way for me to receive feedback. That was something that I immediately felt that could be useful for me, because Toastmasters could give me feedback about my speaking skills but also about my use of the English language. I’m not a native English speaker, so I needed feedback because when I was training no one would give me feedback. I was the ‘teacher’ so, unless it was a big mistake, nobody would say something. Although I live in France, I work in English almost all of the time so that was a very important point for me. That said, I started as a Toastmasters in 2012 and I’ve been President of Paris Speech Masters, a club founded by Bob Mohl. Bob was my mentor and he has been coaching a lot of people that I can describe as accomplished speakers. He was the mentor of Olivia Scofield, Jon Seidel and other people than are the proof that Bob knows what he’s doing. He’s always generous with what he knows and I really appreciate that.

Pedro: What is the secret to make champions?

Antonio: A secret to make champions… I don’t think that there’s just one secret. It’s more like a recipe that uses different ingredients. One of those ingredients is to have a purpose, a really strong why for what you’re doing. Another ingredient is the practice. You really have to practice and work a lot to achieve what you want. It’s about commitment. The third ingredient is your capacity to receive feedback. That’s why you need a mentor, people around you who can help you; but when I say receive feedback, in fact it’s more about filtering feedback. This is very important because a lot of people will give you feedback but not all the feedback is good or is the feedback you need. It’s like you’re giving feedback to Rafael Nadal and saying that he should do this and that. But you’re not Rafael Nadal, so what works for you doesn’t necessarily need to work for him. That’s why you have a coach, to help you filtering feedback. The fourth ingredient is to have fun. If you don’t enjoy, there is no reason to be there. I just can spend so much time in this because it’s fun for me. I love when I can touch my audience and they come up to me saying what inspired them.

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Pedro: What was your purpose in Porto, when you won the District contest?

Antonio: In Porto my purpose was to deliver the best speech that I could. I really wanted to give a message and touch people. In my opinion, this contest doesn’t make sense if you don’t believe in what you’re saying. So I had a message that I wanted to share it with as many people as possible.

Pedro: I still remember the guacamole falafel… Antonio, do you have any framework when you prepare your speeches?

Antonio: For a competition, normally I write the speech and I integrate it. One of the World Champions, Darren Lacroix, defines this in a very fine way: “you don’t memorize your speech, you 

integrate it and then you relieve it”. What it means is that I write the speech, I repeat it a lot and then I don’t care exactly about the words. I can forget the perfect repetition of the words, I connect with the experience that I’m telling about and then I share it as if I’m living it now. This makes the emotion authentic. But I do repeat and rehearse a lot so that I don’t have to worry about remembering what I’m going to say. It’s very important that I repeat until I feel comfortable. When I do my speeches I’m also worried about the structure. I write it all and then I find the structure that it has. Then I rewrite it taking into account that natural structure and finally I put that structure in the space and in the stage. When I’m repeating I consider this and I use the space. Consequently, when I’m delivering the speech, my body knows where to move. This works as reinforcement because the space also helps me remembering, so this is a very embodied experience.

For instance, in Porto, I really wanted to communicate the idea that you’re identity can be much more open. When you accept that idea, you also accept the idea that the identity of other people can also be much more. That for me is empathy. You see the other one as more similar to you. This is the first step. Finding the message, the idea. Then, you need to think about the stories you can share to illustrate that. Finally, it’s about organizing them in a structure that can have a nice conclusion. When I’ve the structure, I can focus in the details, in the humor. So when I’m reading my speech, I try to imagine that I’m reading the speech of another person and I try to make jokes about it. Then I can have fun with the speech and I can integrate that in my speech.

Pedro: It seems like a sculpture…

Antonio: Yes, definitely. I also think that as a cartoonist I always can have a fun approach and look for the right angle to make it fun. I like to put that little cartoons in my speeches, like the guacamole with the falafel. It’s a cute image that I don’t need to draw, I can draw it in your mind. Right?

Pedro: Yes, it worked with me. How was your experience in the World Championship?

Antonio: It was fantastic! I’ve never been in a worldwide Toastmasters conference before and it’s really a good experience. You can learn a lot and connect with people from all over the world. It was amazing to compete there, it’s very rich, very challenging and stakes are high. You need to keep your mind in a health mindset, you have to take care of your physical being. It’s important to sleep well and eat well to be in good shape for the competition. I had the opportunity to arrive to the United States almost three weeks before and that was good. I knew that I was out of jetlag for sure and I’ve also the luck to had my wife with me. She was an important support for me and she was always taking care of me. Another important aspect was that before going to Vegas we did this event called ‘Road to Vegas’. I got together with Thomas Rose, who was the champion from District 95, and we practiced speeches in different places, like Brussels, Paris and London. So we were supporting each other and teaming up. That was really cool. I love collaboration and that for me was a great opportunity to collaborate with Thomas. Now I’ve a very good friendship with him, he’s a great guy and I’m very happy about that. I was also very happy in the day of the competition. The room had about 300 people inside, which is a good audience, and they were receiving the speech in such a good way… They were laughing at all the right places and even more (laugh). I think my deliver was even better than in Porto but I was unfortunate to be a little overtime. That was an important lesson because I feel I was a little bit overconfident. Every time I was delivering my speech, consistently, I was doing 6 minutes and 45/50 seconds, so I thought I was really in a safe song. Like I didn’t need to worry about that and that’s what went wrong. For me it means that you can never be too confident. It’s okay to be confident and to believe in yourself, but I went a little bit too confident. By the moment I paid attention to the timekeeper, I saw the red card I understood that something could go wrong. However, I can say that it was the best deliver I did so far and that makes me happy.

Pedro: The way you are describing you’re whole experience, I feel the real Toastmasters spirit, which is about friendship, connecting with people and improve ourselves.

Antonio: I totally agree. It’s about supporting each other, like what happened with Thomas, it’s about sharing our learning and it’s also about enjoying.

Pedro: I’m happy to know about that. It’s the way I imagine it should be. Antonio, it’s time to go, I know you’ve a busy schedule, so I just want to thank you for your time and say that I hope to meet you soon, in Amsterdam.

Antonio: Thank you. I hope to see you in the Conference too (or in Portugal)!

For those who are interested, Antonio will be participating in a TedX Conference, next 17th October in Clermont-Ferrand (South of France). This time the challenge is to present the same speech he used in Las Vegas but… in French! Adapting a speech for a different language it’s always a challenge, so if you want to see how to do it successfully, just be in Clermont-Ferrand!

Stay awesome!

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