This weekend I had a fantastic opportunity and experience happen to me that was legal, fun, not fattening or artery clogging. My friend John Bates is one of those super enthusiastic guys. He has this infectious way of being happy and joyful that if you let it wash over you, you’ll be swept along in a rush of fun and excitement.

He and his partner Michael Weiss founded which is a speakers boot camp for people who want to give TED and TEDx talks. If you don’t know what TED is you really must go to and watch some awe inspiring, amazing, exciting talks about ideas worth spreading. TED is a nonprofit devoted to ideas worth spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: technology, entertainment and design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh, U.K. each summer — TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and TED Conversations, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.

If you have a message to get out and you enjoy public speaking, like me, you can attend clubs like the Westside Toastmasters, which happens at the Santa Monica Place Community Room on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. If you’ve daydreamed of what it must be like to stand in front of a room full of eager listeners and be able to move them with your oratory, then the place to start is Toastmasters. Whether you’re giving a sales presentation to a room of four people, or a stadium of 10,000, the skills are taught and honed at Toastmasters.

I want to be an excellent speaker, and John knows that. Which is why he invited me to attend his boot camp this past weekend. At 9:30 a.m. 22 men and women made their way into the newest multi-disciplinary, multi-purpose collaborative space in Santa Monica — Cross Campus. Located on Broadway at Ninth Street, Cross Campus is an 11,000-square-foot facility that is designed for solo entrepreneurs, up to small companies that want to be able to scale up or down quickly, and have access to other innovators. Founded by Ronen Olshansky and Dan Dato, Cross Campus is officially opening this Thursday with a ribbon cutting, but those of us who got a preview this weekend were very impressed with the layout and construction of the facility. There are conference rooms on one end and a super quiet Founders Room on the other with a social pit in the middle. Olshansky and Dato built it with the technology crowd in mind.

On Saturday, as the 22 of us sat in a conference room talking about what makes a good speech great and how a TED talk actually differs from a sales presentation, I was struck by the diversity in the room. We had one TEDx organizer who flew down from Homer, Alaska, and another from South Central Los Angeles. There were small business people like me, a divorce and child custody lawyer, to a young man who was an illegal immigrant and now is a tax-paying business owner.

The boot camp was designed for those of us who have some experience on stage, but not in the “TED style” of talking. John and his partner Michael are experienced TEDsters and they teach not just the logistical issues of how to be on stage with the authentic experience of wearing an ear microphone, but they delve into the content of what makes a TED talk so effective and moving. By excavating the outer layers of a talk, they are able to convey the real value of TED and teach us how to do the same.

One of the great Toastmaster coaches is famous for saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” That is why I attend boot camps and marketing expos and sales pitches all the time. I always learn something that I had no idea I had no idea about. After eight hours with John and Michael of ExecutiveSpeakingSuccess at Cross Campus, I had learned a great deal about not just what I knew, how to speak, but why.

The next boot camp for aspiring TED speakers is being held Nov. 3 at Cross Campus and you can find out more at their website or go to I highly recommend John and Michael as excellent teachers and coaches, for both the novice and the advanced speaker.



David Pisarra is a divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in father’s and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at or (310) 664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra

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