Last Friday I went for breakfast at Coogies on Santa Monica Blvd. I like the large open space and the feel of the place, plus they do pancakes really well. Being the Friday before a long weekend, the place was pretty quiet, but as I looked around the room I found a familiar face.

My friend Michael Gendler was there, so I started chatting him up. He’s been coaching my other friend Tristan de Montebello towards the Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking. Michael has done an amazing job of working with Tristan, who has gone from no public speaking experience at all, to making the finals in the World Championship.

I say this as someone who LOST to him. About 3 months ago I was participating in the local level of public speaking contests. There were five of us competing if I recall correctly. The first couple of people went, and they were good but I thought I could beat them. Then I went, and I did my speech well. Not as great as I could have, but respectable.

Then came Tristan. Game over. He was dynamic and funny, and had just the right dash of pathos. He had props. He had mimicry and characterization. As soon as he spoke, I knew he was the winner.

Certainly Tristan gets the lion’s share of the credit for putting in the work, but having a good coach certainly helped – this is where Michael comes in. He is a project manager at HULU and that is really the genesis of his speaking story.

“I became a project manager and knew there was a lot more public speaking involved. And it terrified me. I almost quit because of it. But that’s when I went looking for a solution and found Toastmasters and my passion for both speaking and coaching was ignited” Gendler said. It’s funny to me how often our greatest fears become our greatest successes.

Working at HULU, gave Gendler a great opportunity to develop his coaching skills ( especially as a project manager. “I spoke to my supervisors and said ‘here are my twin passions and I want to see how we can blend them to further both our objectives.’ So I started working with other employees to develop public speaking and leadership skills. HULU really believes in investing in their employees and have been very encouraging of me and my passions.”

I am someone who has worked with individuals to develop their ideas into companies and helped sick companies become well. I’ve seen a lot of snake oil salesmen in the world of consulting and especially in the world of public speaking – and I’ve been extremely impressed with the effort and the skill that Michael has brought to bear with Tristan. To see someone go from novice to the world stage, in a mere 7 months speaks to both Tristan’s dedication and talents, but also to Michael’s and what he’s bringing to the table.

Tristan’s passion in being an ‘ultra learner’ has helped him grow in both the public speaking but also the guitar playing space, his website is and his goal is to help 1,000 people learn to play the guitar well enough to be competent. The idea is that by immersing yourself in something you can learn more faster and better. That’s the story behind the Beatles great success, is they were performing in a very concentrated way, and that concentration reinforces the lessons.

I met Michael last year when I was doing a tour of the local Toastmasters clubs practicing one of my speeches. The repetition of a presentation is an important part of developing one’s skillset. It’s not as easy as it seems to do the same speech and continually impart a dynamic and persuasive performance. By the time I had done my speech a dozen or so times, it was getting harder, because I was getting too used to it. Then I had to find a way to make it interesting to me again. I learned that by doing and by listening to better speakers than me share their experiences.

My Westside Toastmasters, which is the best side, continues to meet on Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m. in the main room of the Ken Edwards Center on 4th street across from the Santa Monica Place Mall. There’s parking in the building. Come on down, we’d love to have you join us and who knows, maybe you’ll be on the big stage next year as well competing to be the World Champion of Public Speaking.

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles 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