There’s lots of advice out there about how to create, deliver, and get paid for great public speaking. But, as I was on a brief Busman’s Holiday watching some great speakers recently, I realized that there are some rules that tend to go unspoken and that many up-and-coming speakers might not know. So here they are, without further ado. If you already know these rules, and are following them, then you’re on the right road to success.
1.Study the great speakers – but don’t imitate them. There’s much to learn from a close study of the great speakers – whether it’s Kennedy and King, Churchill and FDR, or some of your business heroes. You’re not serious if you don’t spend a lot of time scrutinizing the greats in your field. But – and this is important – your goal is not to figure out how to imitate them, but how they can push you to be great in your own voice.
2.Always rehearse. When you’re done, rehearse some more. There are a very few people who do shine when they “wing it” – and show up to speak with no plan in their heads about what they’re going to say. But not as many as think they are great, and even those people don’t do as well as they would have if they rehearsed. If you’re in denial about rehearsal, you’re not being real about your craft. Do you imagine that the two teams getting ready to compete for the Super Bowl here in the US next weekend took this week off?
3.Everything is grist for your mill. If you’re truly passionate about your subject, then you should have a way of looking at the world that’s always seeking out new material, new stories, and new examples of what you talk about. You should be constantly refreshing your stuff, constantly trying to disprove what you think you know, and constantly looking for new information in your field.
4.Seek tough feedback. I spend 4 hours recently with a pro speaker going over a 45-minute talk move by move. That pro wanted the toughest feedback I could give, not a pat on the back and a “nice job.” It’s great to hear that things went well, but unless you’re getting someone to take you and your talk apart on a regular basis, you’re not improving.
5.Your craft is your voice. Speakers speak. It amazes me how many don’t learn the mechanics of good vocalizing, breathing, and care of the voice. You need to be hydrating and breathing, of course, but that’s just the start. The art and science of vocal production is the very bedrock of what you are doing as a speaking, so you need to be serious about your instrument.
If you’ve read this far, you can no longer say “no one told me!” Take care of these basics regularly, and you’ll see your game improve. Avoid these truths of the craft, and you’ve got no one but yourself to blame when the breaks don’t fall your way.