The course of human history and personal destiny has changed more by the spoken word than by the written word. Many of the major turning points in your own life were when someone said something to you that affected you so profoundly that ever afterwards your thinking, your feelings and your actions were different.
There is nothing more important for you than to become really, really good at the art and science of expressing yourself in words to other people.
I’m going to share with you some of the most important ideas I’ve learned in the art of public speaking that you can use, starting immediately, to become more effective and more persuasive in your interactions with others.
At my seminars around the country, people often come up to me and say, “I would like to do what you do. How do I get started?”
Whenever someone asks me how they can become a public speaker, I always refer them to the book Eloquence in Public Speaking written by Dr. Kenneth McFarland. McFarland, who passed away in 1985, is also known as the “Dean of American Public Speakers,” and in his book he didn’t talk about methodology or technique at all.
His central message, which influenced me very strongly when I began speaking publicly, was that the key to eloquence is the emotional component that the speaker brings to the subject.
To put it another way, the starting point of being an excellent speaker is for you to really care about your subject. I watched Wally “Famous Amos” give a talk years and years ago. He started with very little and built up an extraordinarily successful chain of chocolate chip cookie stores. He has since devoted much of his time and money to helping people who are less fortunate, especially those having problems with illiteracy.
He is not necessarily an accomplished public speaker, but the talk that he gave was absolutely excellent. And the reason was because he spoke from his heart. He spoke with a deep concern and compassion about the needs of people who couldn’t read. His eloquence came because he really cared about his subject and everyone listening could sense that emotion even though his structure and his style may not have been as polished as someone who had spoken for many years.
Part One Of Public Speaking
So the starting point of the art of public speaking is for you to pick a subject that you really care about. It is for you to think through the subjects that have had an inordinate impact on you, the subjects that you would like to share with others because you really, intensely feel that others could benefit from your knowledge. Let’s say, for example, that you feel that people could be far more successful in life if they learned how to be more understanding of others. You have found, in your own life, that the more you worked at understanding where others were coming from, the more effective you were in interacting and communicating with them. Because of the impact that this knowledge had on your life, you feel that others could benefit from learning and practicing what you have learned and practiced.
Part Two Of Public Speaking
The second part of public speaking, the real core to the subject, is preparation. Preparation is more important than anything else except caring about your subject.
Ernest Hemmingway once wrote that, “In order to write well, you must know 10 words about the subject for every word that you write. Otherwise,” he said, “the reader will know that this is not true writing.” I personally feel that, in speaking, you must know 100 words for every word that you speak. Otherwise, your audience will have the sense that you don’t really know what you’re talking about.
It’s not unusual for a person to spend many hours, days and even weeks, preparing for a talk. Whenever you see a professional speaker who gives a talk that seems almost effortless, you can know for sure that it was preceded by enormous preparation.
To prepare for a talk, the first thing you do is write out an objective statement of what you wish to accomplish as a result of this presentation. If it’s a 10 minute presentation, or a 10 hour presentation, the statement of your objective is the same. It’s the answer to the question, “Who is my audience and what effect do I want my talk to have upon them?”
So here is my advice to you. Pay any price, spend any amount of time, overcome any obstacle, but make a decision, right now, that you’re going to learn to speak well to other people. It could be one of the most important decisions you ever make in assuring your long term success in your career.