Storytelling strengthen your speech

With this blog post, I’m concluding a series of public speaking principles that are a summation of what I’ve learned about this fiendishly difficult art and science over three decades of practice, coaching, learning from others, and research, especially neuroscience.  The final seven concern general issues of delivery and the speaker.

71.Find ways to protect your soul even as you make yourself vulnerable. The hardest part of giving a speech is to open yourself up to be vulnerable and then to deal with the consequences.  Most of the time, audiences will be incredibly supportive of your efforts, but occasionally they will be cruel.  You need to find ways to protect, and then heal, your soul to be a successful speaker over the long haul.

72.Speeches and speakers must ultimately remain optimistic, even the ranters. Speakers want to change the world, and that is at base a positive wish.  Even those who rant about a current problem are implicitly looking to fix that problem, and so in the end public speaking is, and should remain, a hopeful activity.

73.Own both your successes and your failures. Watching a speaker try to evade responsibility is dispiriting in the extreme and immediately kills any chance the speaker has to move that audience to action.  Speakers must always be grown up and embrace both the good and the bad that goes with their public position 

74.The most important quality of a speaker is presence. If you bring your full self to the speech, and allow your true voice to be heard, then only a lack of presence can prevent your success.  You must let go your ego, and stop thinking about anything else but being present in the room giving voice to your topic.

75.Speakers must embrace authenticity and transparency. The need for transparency and authenticity used to be called integrity and then, as now, it remains a rare commodity.  It’s more instantly revealed when it’s lacking in this YouTube age, but it has always been important.

76.Let your performance go. In the artlessness of true art, in the sincerity of a great show, in the exquisite delivery of a talk that appears to deliver itself – that’s the paradox where success as a performer is to be found.  Perform without appearing to perform.

77.Never court the emotional favor of the audience. Your job as a speaker is to move the audience, not bask in its approval.  You must be willing to risk the audience’s affection to persuade it to let go of its status quo.  It will not thank you for that, at least initially.  But in the end it is what speakers must do.    

My goal with these principles has been to explore the implicit rules of public speaking, the kind people rarely bring up in lists of the 10 rules for public speaking, which almost all start with “follow your passion” and end with “always end on time.”  Both are true and good bits of advice, but they don’t help speakers much beyond the absolute beginning steps.  I hope you have found this expanded treatment useful.  If I’ve left some essential principles out, please let me know in the comments.


    1. Thanks so much — and yes, we are working on a PDF and a couple of other exciting FREE products — stay tuned!

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