The Life and Times of a Public Speaking Trainer – 2
If You haven’t Read part 1 here’s the link
As far as I can remember, I was eight years old when I had my first public speaking engagement. It was a school show about the Great Depression in the early 1900s. I didn’t have the main role which was the best part because I didn’t want it and neither did I believe I was suited for it. I was an introvert, not an extrovert and I preferred anything to speaking.
It was when my teacher handed a piece of paper to me that I got the biggest shock of my life. Did no one know that when Public Speaking takes one road, Taha will run away and walk on another road?!
I couldn’t get out of this one. These were my lines; no one else was given these. When I went home that day, I quickly mentioned to my parents that I had these lines – I think at the time I was hoping they would intervene and tell my teacher that Taha could not possibly do this. That didn’t happen. All my mother told me was ‘practice and just go out there and speak’.
Yes I knew that but I couldn’t. I know I have to go out there and speak. It seems easy…only it’s not. Grudgingly, I began practising my lines. It was only like 15 words but these seemed like I was going to be reading the first ten chapters of War and Peace.
Interestingly, the first four words on the piece of paper were ‘Things might be tough’. How prescient.
My performance in the end wasn’t too bad and the experience did nothing to wash away my dislike and fear of public speaking. I didn’t speak again in public for a few years thereafter and so I remained as someone who had the fear of public speaking.
Being a public speaking trainer now, I have learned there are only two things one needs to do to become an effective public speaker:
‘One, remove the fear of speaking. Two, connect with the audience.’
That is it. That is what being an effective public speaker means. You do these two things and you have my guarantee that you will be an effective public speaker. (Yes, it might take a long time as you’ll see in my case over the next few chapters!)
I’ll cover the fear of speaking in a later chapter; for now I just want to shed some light on the concept of connecting with the audience. When I began my public speaking training career, I was under the impression that everyone had to be constantly improving their speaking ability. I remember asking two people what they thought of their public speaking ability.
‘It’s fine’, they replied. I wasn’t expecting that.
‘Oh ok…errm…would you want to improve your public speaking ability?’ Not much of a sales pitch – but then I was never much of a salesman.
‘No. We are happy the way we present and we get our job done so why improve?’
Those couple of statements shook the way I viewed public speaking. I always believed that any person speaking in public regularly should always strive to get better and that only if they are trained in public speaking then only those can become great speakers. But here I was hearing statements that was complete news to me.
After much thought, I realised they were right – if you get your job done, then isn’t that all you need to do? It dawned upon me that if they don’t want to improve and they were getting the job done and engaging with the audience, then doesn’t that make them able speakers?
I also thought – what was it they were doing that allowed them to engage well with the audience?
I didn’t ask them but over time I began to understand that people have different ways of presenting effectively. There is no one way to present.
Amongst all this, I realised there was one word that connected all these different ways of speaking effectively.
Connection. The able speaker, no matter what their background, simply connects well with the audience.
‘The bad speaker speaks. The good speaker connects.’ – Taha
We’ll cover more on the idea of making connections with the audience in the next chapters and we accompany our friend Eliza on her endeavours to removing her fear of public speaking.