Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Studying the craft, part of Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking.
- You're in a very unique position today. More than ever before, you have the opportunity to become a better speaker by learning from the greats, because you live in the age of the internet. 50 years ago, your only options were observation, a good friend or a mentor to advise you, or maybe a Dale Carnegie Training Course. 20 years ago, you still had to shell out a lot of money for VHS-, or eventually, DVD-based training. Not today. In the age of the internet, you only need your favorite search engine, and there are few limits to what you can find.
The very best speakers from politics, business, sports, and entertainment are right there at your fingertips. Spend time watching them. At first, don't take notes. Just watch and think about what they're doing. Now after watching at least a couple hour's worth of video, stop and step away for a day or two. When you come back after letting all of that material marinate in your brain, you'll feel more ready and able to start picking apart what they're actually doing as speakers.
And get ready to take some notes. I want you to watch your favorite video clips again. This time, think carefully about each of these variables: the use of hands to complement what's being said, the movement of the head, the use of eye contact, facial expressions, voice volume and changes in volume, vocal pace, and the use of pauses. There are many variables, but these are the most important general issues to think about as you get started.
I want you to know that with increased familiarity will come increased comfort as a speaker. Keep these factors in mind, and take notes about what you're watching on the video. You'll notice that my list of variables didn't include the message, the content of what they're saying. To be a great speaker, you do need solid content. But here, we're talking about the basic mechanics of speaking. And here's what we know about speeches. Half or more of the value others perceive in your speech comes not from the words you use, but from the delivery, which really is the list of variables I mentioned a moment ago.
Here's another fact you really need to remember. Nobody starts out as a great speaker, nobody. Here's one of my favorite quotes. This is from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who once said, "All great speakers were bad speakers at first." I'll go even further. All speakers experience nerves. I'm not kidding, that goes for me too. I'm a professional speaker. I give speeches at corporate events for a living, and I get nervous before every single event. You can learn to do what I did, which is to control the nerves and use them to help you deliver with energy instead of allowing them to cause you problems.
It all starts with watching the greats, analyzing them using the variables we covered, and then slowly improving what you're doing as a speaker, variable by variable. With patience and a little time, you just might become a great speaker too.