Emailing Every Professor in Canada — 40,000 of Them: Brenden Kumarasamy

Emailing Every Professor in Canada — 40,000 of Them: Brenden Kumarasamy

My guest for Episode #38 of “the My Favorite Mistake” podcast is Brenden Kumarasamy, and he is the founder of MasterTalk, a YouTube channel that he started to help the world master the art of public speaking. You can also find him on Instagram.

Today, we talk about his favorite mistake, when he sent 40,000 emails out to “every professor” in Canada… and that did not go well for Brenden.

What does go well for him is public speaking. Brenden shares his expertise about common mistakes that people make in public speaking (hint: it relates to practice) and mistakes that people make on YouTube.

You can listen to or watch the episode below. A transcript also follows lower on this page. Please subscribe, rate, and review via Apple Podcasts or Podchaser! This podcast is part of the Lean Communicators network.

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Quotes:

"I would say the biggest mistake that stands out to me right now is most people don't know how to practice public speaking."

"So my advice to people who want to get on camera is to simply ask yourself 'what impact do you want to make?'"

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Automated Transcript (May Contain Mistakes)

Mark Graban (1s):
Episode 38, Brenden Kamarasamy, founder of MasterTalk.

Brenden Kumarasamy (7s):
Yes. I'm sure like many guests on the show made thousands, but if I had to pick one out of the sea of contenders, it would probably be when I started MasterTalk…

Mark Graban (20s):
I'm Mark Graban. This is My Favorite Mistake. In this podcast, you'll hear business leaders and other really interesting people talking about their favorite mistakes because we all make mistakes. But what matters is learning from our mistakes instead of repeating them over and over again. So this is the place for honest reflection and conversation, personal growth and professional success. Visit our website at myfavoritemistakepodcast.com for show notes and more. Go to MarkGraban.com/mistake38 and now on with the show. Hi, welcome to my favorite mistake. I'm Mark Graban and our guest today is Brenden Kumarasamy.

Mark Graban (1m 3s):
He is the founder of MasterTalk. It's a YouTube channel that he started to help the world master the art of public speaking. So Brenden, welcome. How are you?

Brenden Kumarasamy (1m 14s):
I'm great. Mark. How about yourself?

Mark Graban (1m 16s):
I'm doing well. I'm a little self-conscious. I feel like you're going to be evaluating my public speaking.

Brenden Kumarasamy (1m 21s):
You know, everyone says that when I'm always on the show, don't worry. You're safe.

Mark Graban (1m 26s):
All right. And you are joining us from Montreal, correct? You got it. So you are our first guest from Canada. And since it's Montreal, I feel like I should say “bonjour.”

Brenden Kumarasamy (1m 39s):
Yeah, no, it's, it's Montreal. It's this weird place where everyone speaks multiple languages at the same time. So it's fun. It's always fun to be here. Yeah.

Mark Graban (1m 46s):
And I, my French is very limited, so I know everybody would judge me if I tried to say more than a pleasant bunch, your butt, but Brenden, thank you. Welcome for being here on the show. So as, as we typically do, I'll jump right in and ask, what do you consider to be your favorite mistake?

Brenden Kumarasamy (2m 5s):
Yeah, so I'm sure like many guests on the show we've made thousands, but if I had to pick one out of the sea of contenders, it would probably be when I started master talk. So for those who don't know, it's the YouTube channel I started, I started in my mother's basement, essentially. I had no money and no capital. So I was just making videos with my phone. So obviously there's nothing wrong with that. But over time I was thinking about ways to add distribution. Like how do I get this to more people? And I had this brilliant idea of I'm obviously being sarcastic here to email every university professor in Canada, because if even 1% of those professors shared all of my videos with our students, since the students always change, I have the best distribution a YouTube child could ever have in the world.

Brenden Kumarasamy (2m 52s):
Right. Or so I thought anyways, so every day after work, I would spend, I'm not even joking. I would spend four hours a day and I did that for six months sending 500 cold emails every single day. So in that six month period, I probably sent upwards of 40,000 emails, something insane. And the response that I got was there's the drum world essentially was a lot of hate email, a lot of laughing at my face. A lot of you're a kid who are you to share public speaking to us? Most of the teachers that I message didn't even see the video, they just commented on how bad I was and a terrible human being.

Brenden Kumarasamy (3m 34s):
I was for quote unquote, spamming them, even if I just sent them one email that never followed up with them. So that was really embarrassing and a waste of my time, because if I had used that same 40,000, I just sent that to 40,000 podcasts. I would already have a profitable business I do now, but I'm saying like I would be a lot more successful. So I think the lesson there, besides it being a complete and utter waste of my time was this idea of focusing on really, really small niches who are really excited to hear from you. So this is what Seth Godin calls, the smallest viable audience who are the tiniest group of people that would love to hear from you. And for me, what I realized over time, this is probably a year into it, which is dumb me.

Brenden Kumarasamy (4m 16s):
I should've figured that a couple of months in podcasts. So it's a double-edged sword. Right? They see the value of communication because they're hosts. And because they see the YouTube videos, they go, well, I got to share this with people is probably useful. So that was probably my favorite mistake.

Mark Graban (4m 33s):
Yeah. So did you, I, I always, you know, sometimes the follow up question is when did you recognize it was a mistake? did you get a few nastygram responses? And then continue with this path of, of emailing all of these professors, when, when did it finally kick in to say, okay, I'm seeing a pattern. This is not right or wrong. This is not being received well to go and adjust the approach.

Brenden Kumarasamy (4m 54s):
You know, I wish I was smart. Like you Mark. And I adjusted quickly. And frankly, I did it. I just kept studying. I was just like, well, I guess this university is terrible. So I'm just going to go to the next one. But then it kept happening. But by the time I realized it wasn't working, I had already emailed all the professors. And so that's smartest move.

Mark Graban (5m 13s):
Or were these, were these like communications or, or speakers related to speaking or no, it was broader than that.

Brenden Kumarasamy (5m 22s):
Everybody. I emailed science professors history don't get me wrong. Some of the people, like I still have a relationship with, but out of the tens of thousands of professors I emailed the end result was like seven professors. So not the most effective use of my time. I was better off just meeting them in person at that point, if I was going to get seven yeses. Yeah. Wow.

Mark Graban (5m 44s):
So, I mean, I appreciate you sharing that because you know, one of the themes here in the podcast is, you know, for one recognizing that we're all human, we all try things that don't work and we sometimes then label those as mistakes, but then, you know, we reflect and we learn from those mistakes. So I appreciate you, you know, sharing that. It's always tempting to want to tell our success stories and, and I'm sure you know, there, w w what would you say are the success stories then related to, to master talk and what you've then done on YouTube?

Brenden Kumarasamy (6m 20s):
Yeah, for sure. So, so like you alluded to a completely agree. Most people do want to talk about their success. And for the first year and a half, there was no success with MasterTalk and didn't have a single client. Nothing really worked. I was still in my mother's basement. The videos, I think what really changed for me was when I realized the bigger vision of what it could be. So when I was six or seven months into master talk, I've realized that nobody in their twenties was sharing communication tips for the world to learn from. And most speech coaches who are very wealthy, especially the ones who are the best in the world. They don't share any of their content for free. So I saw this interesting niche, but I only did it after taking action. And I saw that gap in the market. So that's when I really started 10X-ing on my production, 10X-ing on everything that I was doing.

Brenden Kumarasamy (7m 5s):
And I started really funneling a lot of my day job income into video production, and then the YouTube channel started to pick up. So I guess the big success now is, you know, I have a thriving coaching practice and successful YouTube channel. So I think the future of that is just keep growing and see what happens. But it's been fun so far.

Mark Graban (7m 24s):
So I'm going to call a timeout real quick. I had muted myself, so I could take a sip of water and not let my ice clank and on my Mac, I somehow invoked Siri. And I'm not sure how that happened. So I couldn't hear you for about two seconds. I don't know what impact that has on the recording. So I've made a mistake. Is it okay if we go back and, and, and sort of just in case, so I'm going to go back and ask you again about successes. Say I'm a living demonstration of, I need to figure out how I did that, so I can prevent that from happening again.

Mark Graban (8m 4s):
Okay. So let me just think of the edit point. So what would you say then are some of the successes that you've found through MasterTalk through your YouTube channel, Brenda?

Brenden Kumarasamy (8m 15s):
Yeah, absolutely. And I was in for the first year and a half Mark, you know, there was no success. There was just a guy in the basement making YouTube videos, and I didn't think much of it, but I think the difference maker is when I realized the bigger vision of what it could be. So for instance, let's say you're in high school or in college, and you want to get better at public speaking. Well, on YouTube, you don't really have that many options, especially in their own age range. So since I'm the only person in the space is creating high quality content, there's a great opportunity, especially in the media space to build something big, especially on communication. So when I started seeing the bigger vision, I started taking it more seriously. That's when I, I spent a lot more money on video production.

Brenden Kumarasamy (8m 55s):
I hired someone to help figure out how to frame the content in a way that's super entertaining and professional. And then the coaching clients and the YouTube channel started to grow a lot more. So there's definitely been some success that I'm proud of, but there's definitely a lot more to go as well. Yeah,

Mark Graban (9m 11s):
That's good. What would you say are some of the, the most common mistakes that public speakers make? I do a lot of speaking myself. So I have kind of a personal vested interest in the advice and ideas you have here. So I guess, you know, first off we talked about what are some of the common mistakes, and then we can maybe talk about some of the lessons learned from that most common public speaking.

Brenden Kumarasamy (9m 34s):
Yeah, absolutely. I would say the biggest one that stands out to me right now is most people don't know how to practice public speaking. So let's say you take any skill like piano, let's say me and you wanted to learn piano for the first time we have two options. Option a is picking 15 different songs, trying to figure things up now for a Mozart, that's going to work just fine. But unfortunately for us, we're not Mozart's we have to go to option two, which is practice one song 15, 20 times. So let's say we did that after a couple of months, you know, that song perfectly. And we go to a black tie event, like a black gala, or, you know, a nice, fancy place to be. And there's a piano there. And you say, Hey, you know, I know one of these songs might as well start playing and they start playing that one song, you know, and everyone around there at the event goes, wow, Mark, you're so amazing at piano.

Brenden Kumarasamy (10m 23s):
Have you been doing this for many years? You know? Yeah. You know, it's no big deal. I'm just pretty good at what I do. But even if you'll need one song that confidence boost that everyone else gives you makes you believe that you're an incredible pianist. So you start to practice other songs and you're off to the races. This analogy applies for anything that we do. For the most part. When we start a podcast, a YouTube channel, we start to cook for the first time run jogging. It's, it's a perpetuity. If we do the same thing over and over again, and then we get better results, but we don't do that with public speaking. It's Wednesday or boss or client, or teacher comes up to us and says, Mark, I need a presentation for Fridays.

Brenden Kumarasamy (11m 4s):
You look at everyone, you go, okay. It looks like I'm not talking to my family for two days, get a presentation together, you present it. And all the hard work you put into it, you crumble up the presentation, throw it in the garbage, move on to the next one. Whereas the key here is that the best speakers in the world only do one or two presentations, but they present it hundreds of times.

Mark Graban (11m 25s):
And so there's a difference between, and is, is the audience for your YouTube channel people that were presenting in a semi-public setting like a workplace or people who were up on stage and a more public speaking sort of setting?

Brenden Kumarasamy (11m 40s):
Yeah, that's a great question. So, so I would say for the YouTube channel in particular, my target audience is anyone who wants to share an idea that adds value to people. So if you're, you know, a mother, a single mother in a city who has an amazing cupcake recipe to share, if you're an eight year old girl who wants to raise a hundred bucks for charity, or if you're a senior executive at a nonprofit who wants to get better at fundraising, the YouTube channel is for you. It's for anyone who wants to share an idea that matters and can't afford a speech coach. And obviously if you're like a CEO or something, then it would be a coaching practice,

Mark Graban (12m 18s):
Right. Are there differences in, in, in public speaking versus speaking in a recorded way on YouTube? So, you know, I published these interviews on YouTube. I very rarely sit and record something where it's just me talking into the camera on YouTube, the way a lot of people do the way you do and your videos. Are there any, I guess we can frame it in terms of mistakes that people make when recording a YouTube video or something that is that sort of just you in the camera kind of setting, what would you, what would you say about that?

Brenden Kumarasamy (12m 50s):
Absolutely. So there's definitely pros and cons. I would say the biggest con with camera. Cause I struggled a lot on camera personally. I know it doesn't look that way anymore. When you look up at new videos, just go off, go watch my first one and you'll see the big difference. The reason is because there's nobody to talk to. So when I give a workshop, I'm usually presenting to a couple of hundred or a couple of dozen people. So I can see people, I can get their energy and use it to fuel myself. But when I started YouTube, I was alone in my basement. There was nobody there. It was a dark place because it was a dark room and it was frankly very low, but it's, it's hard to draw that energy up. But the biggest advantage of camera is that you only need to get it perfect.

Brenden Kumarasamy (13m 32s):
One time, if you get it perfect, one single time, you can share that video forever. So my advice to people want to get on camera is to simply ask yourself what impact do you want to make? If your goal is to the dozen people, you really don't need to be on camera. You can just coach those dozen people and be done. But if your goal is to impact 12 million people or 1.2 million people, or a bunch of people, your only option, unless you were a blocker or something is to be on video because there are some people that can't afford your can't reach your ideas, unless you've share them openly. That's why I started the YouTube channel. I had no intention of making a videos. I want it to be an executive at a company. Right. But it's because I realized the bigger mission that I started doing that.

Mark Graban (14m 17s):
Yeah. So let, let's talk a little bit about, well, one of the things I was going to ask first webinar presentations, you know, in this virtual zoom, we're not traveling for business kind of world. I've personally done more webinars as sometimes host webinars and I'm having to coach people through it to your point of it when it's just you and the camera without an audience I've found webinars to be probably the most challenging form of presentation. Like you were literally talking into a black hole, you don't hear any laughter or response or any sort of energy or feedback, head nodding, arms crossed. D do you have any thoughts or advice around avoiding mistakes with webinars?

Brenden Kumarasamy (15m 0s):
Completely agree with all of what you just mentioned. Mark. That's the challenge with online presentations in the sense that you can gauge anyone's reaction. So what's the tip. The tip is putting an emphasis on this idea of repeatable presentation. So I'm a good example of this. I had a pretty good speaking career. I was supposed to do 20 or 30 stages this year. And as you can imagine, that didn't happen. So most of those stages transitioned to virtual, but the reason I still did okay, anyways, was because I presented that that pitch 400 times. So when I went back to the online world, even if it was challenging, I was able to bring all of the energy and all of the enthusiasm, because I just imagined as if everyone was sitting there because I had practiced that one thing over and over again.

Brenden Kumarasamy (15m 46s):
Whereas the reason why most people are struggling with virtual right now is not necessarily because of the setting, but rather because of the preparation they're doing the same thing that they would have in the in-person world or the presenting the presentation for the first time ever. But now they're doing an, a much harder setting. So of course they're not seeing the same results, but for professional speakers, not even professional speakers, just people who, who are trainers, coaches or anything, all you need is that one presentation, that one topic, and then you can do better. So my advice for those who want to get better virtual to two tips in particular, one is get better with the zoom rooms. So get a bunch of people you don't like, or there that criticize you in a room virtually and poke holes in everything that you do from the mic that you're using from the way that you're dressing through the way that your hair looks to the way that you speak, get them to put holes in everything that you do.

Brenden Kumarasamy (16m 42s):
So when the actual presentation occurs, you'll be ready. And the second thing is, imagine a perfect in-person audience and this takes time, but you can get it right. So I'll give you an example with me. When I did my first podcast, I was scared to death. I was just sitting there and saying, why is it not a stranger asking me questions about my life? This is so bizarre. But then after some time, of course, doing more shows and getting more experience what I do whenever I go into a cause is I give a positive mindset talk. I just say, well, chances are, Mark is probably a good guy. He doesn't get paid to do a podcast. He puts a lot of effort into this. So I'm going to assume that I've known Mark for many years.

Brenden Kumarasamy (17m 23s):
And then if you do that over and over again, you'll start to develop that mindset as well.

Mark Graban (17m 27s):
Yeah, I think it's a fair assumption. I hope you would have assumed that I didn't have you on the podcast to make you look back. I'm here to let you share some of your experiences and, and give a little promotion to what you're doing. And I remember at some point I'd gotten advice that said, and it's probably generally true, not every single person in the audience, but people in an audience want you to do well as a speaker. And to a point where I think, you know, you, you maybe hear the, you hear the praise, but you don't hear the things that could have been better. So I really liked your tip about getting, you know, a focus group together, a room of people that because you know them, or because they're quote unquote negative, that they're willing to poke holes or give feedback so that you can make mistakes maybe in kind of a private setting before you go and make those mistakes more publicly.

Mark Graban (18m 21s):
That kind of a fair synopsis of what you were saying.

Brenden Kumarasamy (18m 24s):
I completely agree. And just to add a point to what you said, Mark, about how most of the audience are good people, I'll give you a concrete example to demonstrate this. If you're at a conference and you're picking the Mark's panel over mine, that means you're spending an hour of your precious time that you could have had lunch with their kids or your family or a friend with work. So the last thing I want Mark to do is to do terrible in the presentation. There'll be a waste of my hour. I'm rooting for you. I'm just not with, I just don't have cheerleader, you know, ribbons in the sky, but yes, I'm hoping internally that you do a good job so I can come up to you and say, Hey, Mark, I really learned a lot. Thanks for making this a good use of my time.

Brenden Kumarasamy (19m 5s):
That was amazing. And the same way with this podcast, you want to use this time efficient, you're rooting for being marked out a good conversation here. How's it going to say, why didn't I wasted 15 minutes of my life, listen to this same analogy. Yeah.

Mark Graban (19m 18s):
And, and just, you know, kind of a final thought again, you know, thinking of, yeah. People are rooting for you. And I think a lot of times people are shy about giving constructive feedback. So there's that, that bias of like, there's times my wife will ask me, how did the talk go? And I'm like, well, there were three people who came up and said how great they, they thought the talk was and had something hopefully specific to say about it. It's really rare when somebody takes the time to wander up to the front of the room and wait and say something like, you know, that was really disappointing. I wish I had gone to Brenden's session. Instead, you don't get that feedback. And I think, you know, again, back to the theme, one of the themes of this podcast, we learn from mistakes.

Mark Graban (19m 58s):
And if all we're hearing is everything is great. That doesn't really challenge us to improve. Right?

Brenden Kumarasamy (20m 6s):
Absolutely. Yeah.

Mark Graban (20m 6s):
So my guest here again today has been Brenden Kamarasamy, he is the founder of MasterTalk a YouTube channel. I assume if people just go and they search YouTube for MasterTalk, is that the easiest way to find you?

Brenden Kumarasamy (20m 20s):
Absolutely. They can just type MasterTalk in one word, or if they want to message me directly on Instagram, that's mastered your talk

Mark Graban (20m 27s):
And, and say that again. The username on Instagram is

Brenden Kumarasamy (20m 31s):
Absolutely. It's a masteryourtalk.

Mark Graban (20m 35s):
And then you had mentioned that you do coaching. If somebody wants to reach out to you about possibly engaging you for that similar thing, contact you through Instagram or how best to reach you.

Brenden Kumarasamy (20m 48s):
Yeah. Instagram's the best. Okay.

Mark Graban (20m 51s):
It's funny often I, it's funny that we all have our preferences on communication. Instagram messages is about the last place. I look personally, I went years without realizing that there was a messages function within Instagram. I thought it was just me posting photos and people commented. So that was probably one of my mistakes. I wouldn't call it a favorite mistake, but I had inadvertently ignored the handful of people who had sent an Instagram message. So it goes, we learn from our mistakes. I hope you don't feel like Brenden that it was a mistake coming on the podcast.

Brenden Kumarasamy (21m 25s):
No, absolutely. No. It's great to be well, thank you.

Mark Graban (21m 27s):
I thank you much for being here. Thanks for listening. I hope this podcast inspires you to pause and think about your own favorite mistakes and how learning from mistakes shapes you personally and professionally. If you're a leader, what can you do to create a culture where it's safe for colleagues to talk openly about mistakes in the spirit of learning, please subscribe, rate, and review the podcast. Our website is myfavoritemistakepodcast.com. See you next time.


Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus. He is also a Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Marketing with the healthcare advisory firm, Value Capture.