Interview with Darren LaCroix

Darren LaCroix

2001 World Champion of Public Speaking


1) Why did you choose to become a keynote speaker and coach, and what do you love most about what you do?

I started off in pursuit of becoming a comedian, never knowing there was a profession of professional speaking. I stumbled upon it through Toastmasters and a seminar my company Bose sent me to. Then I realized that, as much as I loved making people laugh, I enjoyed even more inspiring them. It became a bigger, better dream for me personally. It became my passion. It was while attending my first National Speakers Association meeting in 1996 that I realized I would do some form of speaking for the rest of my life. Not even sure what or how. That didn’t matter.

What do I love most? The ah-ha in the eyes of an audience. I’d be lying if I did not say the ego is not partially involved. It feels good to serve others though teaching. I grew up being “invisible.” I still like being the ‘observer’ and watching and studying people until it is my turn for the stage.

2) Just about everyone who has ever delivered a speech to an audience and said or did something embarrassing can relate to your 2001 Winning Speech. How would you suggest people recover from their Ouch! moments, especially those living in Asian countries, where the loss of “face” can cause much distress?

Thanks. That is a lesson to all of us. The true power in a good speech is that our audience can relate to us. If they cannot, we will never inspire or educate them.

If you have not embarrassed yourself on stage, you are not risking enough. You are too concerned about “looking good.” Guess what, IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU! A good speech is transformational for the audience members, not you. I see it way too often that people are not “being real” so they therefore do not grow as quickly as a speaker.

I love that we have manuals. Please use them for the purpose they are designed to stretch you and help you uncover the amazing speaker inside you. The down side of manuals is that some Toastmasters are more motivated to get the check mark in the book, than grow from the experience. So when you are looking at giving a speech, ask yourself, what is my intent?

I learned from my mentors to be focused on how good you will be when you give your 100th speech.  It is NOT how it goes today. It is “if” you go up today, you WILL be better next week. Too many people are so concerned about being perfect, that they wait and wait. Seriously? No one comes to Toastmasters to be a better speaker at Toastmasters. We come to be better OUTSIDE of Toastmasters. This amazing organization we designed to be a place we can make mistakes. Besides the audience doesn’t want you perfect. They want you present.

3) What is your mission in Life?

It is sad that so many live their life with such limiting beliefs. One of the most inspiring movies I’ve ever seen is ‘Rudy’. Now, I’m fortunate enough to be friends with the man the movie was made about. Never dreamed of that happening.

I love the life that I live. I’m so fortunate that I get to do what I love to do for a living. I had great mentors and I was smart enough to listen. I did not let my ego get in the way. I have new goals and dreams. A major portion of that is to inspire others to live the life they only dream of, and have fun doing it. (Me and them).

I’m now working on 2 more books, a movie, and a one-man show in Las Vegas: Humor and Hope. A show that inspires people. It is another dream. It will push me to grow as I pursue that one.

4) What are some of the key messages that you have included in your speeches time and again?

“You can do this!” Probably the most important message. No one told me I could make people laugh. I bombed miserably at a comedy show my first time in 1992. Nine years later I won the World Championship out of 25,000 contestants and got 18 laughs while delivering a powerful message. I show video clips of my first time on stage from that show in 1992. Even for a general audience. I did this week at a conference in Las Vegas. It was a group of manufacturing reps from across the country. One man told me he loved my speech. I asked him what about it impacted him. He said without hesitation, “We hear a lot of motivational speakers, but you were different, you lived it.” He went on to say that the video was “proof” of how bad I was and what challenges I had in front of me.

As my friend Rudy says, “The most important thing you can give someone is hope.”

5) You’re a comedian. Which is your favorite joke to tell and what makes you laugh?

I love improv. It is exciting, you never know where it will go. It has helped my confidence
to be able to be in the moment and handle anything. Every speaker who is serious should take an
improv class. I took several. I also learned from one of the best improv comedians in the world,
my mentor, Vinnie Favorito. If you ever get to Las Vegas, go see him. You can also FB him.

I have a joke I tell about negative people in our lives. It would not translate well in text. The reason I love it is that I never actually say the punchline. It actually happens in the minds of the audience members.

What makes me laugh? ‘Who’ might be easier to answer. I enjoy Vinnie (I go see him about once per month), comedian Ron White, and keynote speaker Jeannie Robertson. They are masters.

Humor is in the mind of the beholder. It is subjective.