Episode 30 – How to Become a World Class Public Speaker

Welcome to the Thirtieth episode of my podcast, The Power of Three. I want to help show you how harnessing the Power of Three can lead to a more fulfilling life, a life that celebrates our differences and our similarities, and accepts that we are part of the great web of life.

In this episode, I will discuss how you can become a world-class speaker. The topic of this episode is perhaps a little misleading. Not being a world-class public speaker, I am probably not qualified to tell anyone how to become one. It is also questionable whether this topic is suitable for a podcast that deals with what appears to be a political topic.

I will answer the second part of that introduction first. Why am I introducing public speaking in a podcast dealing with life, liberty and equality? I have been writing episodes for this podcast for a couple of months now. During that time, I have noticed a few trends in listenership. Or should I say, non-listenership. I hoped that I could attract more people with this message. Clearly, I am approaching something the wrong way. It struck me that strong feelings about something, whatever it is, can either galvanize people into action, or turn them away.

People often prefer not to talk about political subjects because of the emotions involved. People can lose friends and damage their reputations. Once lost, a reputation is difficult to repair. Yet, many difficult political and social topics need to be debated. Society cannot rely on the powerful, or the political class to resolve all their problems. People need to agree, compromise and cooperate. In a fractious and partisan nation, agreement is becoming increasingly rare. Yet, people still need to take action to tackle these difficult ideas. Change only happens when ordinary people decide that it is time for change.

We need to discuss these things. When wounds are left open, they fester and become infected. The longer we leave tackling society’s problems, the greater the chance of social breakdown and violence. So, what is the solution?

The solution is for people from all walks of life, with varied opinions and insights to start to talk to one another. That is where the second part of my introduction comes into play. Public speaking. One way to open debate on any social issue is to present a well-founded argument to an audience. That audience might be open to your argument, or they may be completely hostile. The question is, how do you present an argument to an audience without alienating them? How do you persuade people that you may have a point? How do you show an audience that you have taken their arguments into consideration without mocking those arguments?

That is what I want to present to you. All my life I have wanted to make a difference, to help make a better world, a fairer world, a world where all people are treated with respect and dignity. I have tried my entire life to find a way to fulfill that dream. Yet, I have always been my own obstacle to achieving anything noteworthy. Being opinionated, I alienate people quite easily, perhaps doing the opposite of what I intend.

I believe that public speaking is the answer. I am a public speaker; in my own estimation, a good public speaker. I make no apologies for that determination. I present well, and people appear to enjoy what I have to say. That does not mean that I am a world-class public speaker. That is an entirely different proposition. Nor am I an excellent public speaker. I am just good. And that is all you need to accomplish.

Consider, for a moment, the Toastmasters International Speech Contest. Every year, about 30,000 speakers enter club contests, hoping to win at the club, area, division, and district, and qualify to continue to the World Championship. Of all those people, only one will become a World Champion. There have only been about eighty Toastmasters World Champions. Hundreds of thousands of hopefuls have competed for that single slot. Hundreds of thousands of competent, wonderful speakers. People with energy, humor, and talent.

Toastmasters produces a surplus of talented people, many of whom could make the lives of others better, more inspiring, filled with images conjured with words. A good speaker motivates others and gives them knowledge and hope. Even the best speakers will not become World Champion. But they can become better and they can change minds and lives. To me, that is good enough.

Stories are one of the foundation stones of good public speaking. I have a story about a young man that wanted to become world class. He was born in a small town in Northern Nepal. His birth name was Namgyal Wangdi. A local lama advised his father to change his name. He became known as Tenzing Norgay, which means, “wealthy-fortunate-follower-of-religion”. He would leave the small hut that he called home each morning, as a child, and look up at the mountains. He wanted so much to join the single file of young men leaving the village with backpacks piled high. They would spend days away, climbing the mountains with strange looking people.

He was sent away at the age of seven to study the art of climbing. The master climber lived in the village of Khumbu, in Nepal. Tenzing was impatient to start his training. In the morning, the master led him to a small garden where he could see the mountains. They sat with each foot resting on the opposing thigh. The master gave Tenzing some rope to braid. The sun rose above the mountains and they sat silently braiding. When the sun was close to midheaven, Tenzing looked up at the master. His knees ached and his joints were stiff. When would they climb the mountains?

“Master…” He began.
“Patience, Tenzing” The master did not look up.

After the midday meal of white rice with curried vegetables and lentil juice, the master gestured to Tenzing to follow and bring his rope. They walked through the foothills with the mountains looming above them. After an hour, the master stopped before a cliff a hundred feet above them.

“Are you ready to climb, Tenzing?”
“Master, I am tired.” The master nodded and they returned down the mountain.

Each day they continued with this routine. Each day Tenzing’s the walk and the rope was longer. One afternoon, after a particularly long walk, the master stopped before a cliff.

“Are you ready to climb, Tenzing?”
“I am ready, master.” Together they climbed the cliff face.

Each day they braided rope and each day they hiked the foothills. Tenzing grew stronger. One morning, when the master felt he was ready, he joined the older boys.

He spent many years on climbing ever more difficult mountains. On a day when the storm clouds were rolling up against the peaks, one of the foreign devils with golden hair arrived to hire a team of Sherpas. The leader of the foreign devils found Tenzing’s smile attractive and hired him.

The climb was to be up the tallest mountain on Earth. The Tibetans call the mountain, “Holy Mother”, or the “Goddess of the summit”. Three times Tenzing and the British tried to reach the summit of Mount Everest and three times they failed. Tenzing felt he would never defeat the mountain, but he kept on trying.

In March 1953, at the age of 39. Tenzing joined the expedition of John Hunt to climb Everest. Two months later they reached 25,900ft. On the 29th May, Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of the world’s tallest mountain.

In June, 1999, Tenzing was listed as one of the 100 most influential people of the Twentieth Century.

Not many of us will become the first to climb a mountain. Very few of us will become a speaker of the same order as Martin Luther King, Mark Twain or Steve Jobs. Few of us will become a President of the United States as eloquent as Barack Obama, or Prime Minister of wartime Britain. We may not become world-renowned public speakers, win Wimbledon, or run General Electric. But we can become better at what we do.

Almost everything that we try to accomplish in life follows the same track as Tenzing Norgay. We all have our personal mountain, whether it is winning a Nobel Prize, an Oscar, or becoming a world-class speaker. Sometimes we just want to stand up in front of our colleagues with a successful presentation.

We start by braiding rope, learning the basics of our craft. We never stop practicing those basic skills. The basic skills can never be so perfect that we do not need to exercise them. We walk the foothills of our craft until we are fit and strong, and continue every day. And we become better at what we do, until it is as natural as breathing. Like breathing, we never stop until the last breath leaves our bodies.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that, “Life is a journey, not a destination”. Or so it is attributed. Our journey with public speaking is the same. Whether we are world class speakers, great speakers or just good at our craft, we never stop honing our skills and perfecting the basics. Perhaps, one day, we will reach our personal summit. Until then, we braid rope and walk the foothills. We do not walk the same foothills each time; every mountain has its own character. Every speech, every audience, every speaker is unique, and we strive to learn something new each time we speak.

We influence our audience, inspire them, make them laugh, or cry. In this way we become, each in our own way, world-class speakers. The same basic concepts are true whether you are speaking on political or social issues, or motivating your staff or a conference of people. We learn the basics and strive to improve.

From this week I will be switching this podcast from three times a week to two. One a Monday I will deal with persuasion and communication through public speaking. On a Friday, I will attempt to use what I have learned to persuade my audience.

If you enjoyed this episode, share it with your friends on Facebook. If you are a toastmaster, share it with your club or other speakers.

I encourage you to continue to enhance your life with the Power of Three and search for the best possible life to live.

Until next time, go well my friends.

Enjoyed this article?

Subscribe to our RSS feed!

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *