This afternoon I will be giving a talk to members of an organisation celebrating the Third Age, with no idea of the numbers – although 104 13-year-olds is my record.
If you recall, last Thursday I proposed and encouraged the concept of Third-Person Teaching to readers, and this ‘giving talks’ is the result of my adherence to the idea. Many moons ago I was offered the opportunity to teach self-development material to my peers, and the one experience that I lacked was public speaking. I knew the material but I’d not really been heavily involved in speaking to large audiences and I knew that I wold be expected to do exactly that if I entered the world of training. I knew the stuff – I just hadn’t preached it afore.
My first port of call was a local Speakers Club, which welcomed me and over the next few months developed me. But it was Day 1 that amazed me.
I was asked to introduce myself, and so I did. And as I sat down I remember thinking, “That was GREAT!” Admittedly, the subject I had spoken upon was my favourite – me – but their encouragement and a feeling (on my part) that my presentation had ‘flowed’ imbued within me an enthusiasm for speaking. Which was just as well because they volunteered me to talk for two minutes on ‘sycophancy’, the sods. Blew them away.
There is a theory that people fear speaking in public more than death. I recognise that speaking with no preparation and with no notice can be challenging, even though that last one’s happened to me three times and I have more than coped. But if you know your subject and how you are going to put it across – have fun doing so! If you can talk in a group of three – and we all gather around the water fountain and gossip – then you can talk to a group of a hundred. You just have to ‘not whisper’.
I encourage you, therefore, as part of your professional and personal development, to go to a local speakers’ club and see just how ‘normal’ the members are – normal, yet able to enthral an audience with both prepared and ad hoc speeches.
You may never have to make a training presentation, but I’d gamble that you all have clubs you might wish to direct, children whose weddings need your input, best man speeches to deliver – public speaking is common, and it is not hard.
But a very important consideration is this – when you have to prepare a talk, you learn. When you learn, you discover new ways of thinking, and you start to develop an open mind that sees through waffle and ‘the reality of the matter is’ and realise that some public speakers are just semi-professional liars. You also realise that although Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech was magic, his delivery was a bit OTT. He’d get marked down at Speakers Club, I’m telling you.
The only caveat I have is this.
Gestures are encouraged at Speakers Clubs. Appropriate gestures. Not this constant hand waving seen by people sitting down on panel shows. For goodness’ sake people, you’re not lecturing or acting, you’re just answering a bloody question. Hand waving is not required.
Another benefit is you stop saying, “I mean” and “Sort of” and “Kind of” and “obviously” because you start to think before you speak, instead of after. Oh, wonderful thing!
If you just learn that, people will be grateful.