Champion speakers say, address the human heart
The prospect of speaking as a solitary figure on a stage to hundreds of people almost always “brings shivers up the spine” of even the most accomplished executive. Others often complain of “butterflies in the belly.”
That’s because “to err is human.” And if we believe Murphy’s Law, “if something can go wrong, it will–at the most inopportune time.”
And it can go very wrong very fast before the eyes and ears of at least a hundred people. Worse, your error in delivery can be picked up by a powerful microphone, and your highly visible embarrassing moment caught by television.
And yet, speak in public we must.
On the first Monday of every month, if you are one of those ranking officials handling a department in government, you will be the featured speaker in a flag ceremony.
So, the employees will either love you their boss for your inspiring Monday morning speech, or they will have one more reason to get back at you by spreading an embarrassing–or ho-hum story–to prove that your feet, after all, are made of clay.
Or, you are finally conferred a well-deserved doctorate and, garbed in hood and toga, you deliver a speech that inspires graduates in commencement rites. You can deliver a brief memorable speech and be an exemplar for their dreams and ambition as they pursue their leadership career.
If you falter, the graduates would wonder why in the world did the University president invite you to the most special event in their life.
The problem is you don’t really have much time to prepare a speech, rehearse it many times, and then–seize the day!–deliver it.
For speakers, not speechwriters
Thus the book “Speaker, Leader, Champion,” jointly written by Jeremey Donovan and Ryan Avery, could be your kind of book. It is not written for speechwriters–but such ghost writers can very much learn from the champions. It is published for leaders like our Inquirer readers–who are in the business of leading this country, or heading a conglomerate, or spearheading a cause through a civil society organization.
The main part of the book is all of 11 chapters, with deceptively simplistic titles. That’s because when you read through each chapter, you will get tips from these two authors whose love and pre-occupation are to deliver short, pithy and effective speeches all their waking lives. These are Toastmasters International champion speakers. Donovan is a Toastmaster and author. Avery is a world champion in public speaking, winning every single competition he enters.
There are speaking contests, all right, but they are not meant to boost the ego. They are designed to boost the speaking confidence of leaders in government and business.
As early as Oct. 22, 1924, when the first Toastmasters Club was born in the YMCA of Sta. Ana, California, the idea of joining speaking competitions is inspired by the worthy goal to equip leaders to speak with a compelling message and with contagious confidence.
Be true to yourself
This book is read as a manual, and yet is as rich in content as an anthology of rhetorical pieces with heart-rending and thought-provoking human themes.
As a reference book, you can pick the first or seventh chapter, and you are well on your way to learning from the speaking masters. You pick Chapter 7, for example, from the table of contents, titled “Mastering Verbal Delivery,” and when you get to that page, you are introduced to an interesting tip: “Amplify your natural, authentic voice.”
“It is important to express your true self, while adapting your voice to help your audience better connect with your message. Sounding authentic can take some effort (what!?), but remember that it simply requires that you speak as you would to someone you care about.”
You are now advised to find your authentic self. You might have lost yourself after being busy imitating others!
Relive your story
In chapter 3, “Telling Stories,” the authors dish out this advice: “Don’t retell your story; relive your story.” Get it from 1999 Toastmasters champion, Craig Valentine, who says in the book: “You’ve got to invite them (the audience) into the scene of your story so they can hear it how you heard it, see it how you saw it, and feel how you felt it.”
The book authors comment on this view: “Retold stories feel backward-looking and clinical. Relived stories feel alive and emotional.”
In a book I reviewed earlier, “The Pin Drop Principle,” the power of narrative was discussed. Both books agree on introducing a hero in the story, then bring in the villain for an ensuing conflict, and then, building suspense, bring the audience to a resolution.
Seek a higher purpose
“Speak to serve” is Tip no. 1 of this book. World Toastmasters 2005 champion Lance Miller says: “There are striking parallels between finding your professional purpose and finding the purpose of a speech. Nearly every book or article ever written about finding your purpose offers identical yet profound advice–to discover your true calling.”
“Pick a vocation that lies at the intersection of three considerations: what is valued by others, what you are great at, and what you would be willing to do even if money were not the object,” Miller wisely points out.
In short, speakers are advised to speak from heart and soul, latched on to a higher purpose.
Read the sample winning speeches included in the book, and you will conclude that speeches that are truly memorable are those that truly inspire–because they address the human heart.
And, yes, Murphy’s Law will not haunt because you shall have found your true self when you get onto that stage, and speak from the heart. [email protected]
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