Can walking 800km make you a better public speaker?
There are four key qualities that make an outstanding public speaker. These four characteristics make speakers memorable rather than mundane, spellbinding rather than stale, and wonderful rather than wearisome. When you get on your feet to speak in public if you exemplify these powerful traits you will engage, enthral and entertain an audience. If you don’t have these qualities deeply internalised about the subject you are going to deliver, you’re just not ready to speak in public.
The four qualities are:
The question is then, how do you as a speaker embody these qualities?
Some of the best speakers I have heard communicate their message well, because they have lived, well. What they speak about is not some “pie in the sky” ideals and platitudes that they think will sound good. Neither is it the “same old lines” that someone else has used a million times before, borrowed from dog eared copies of self improvement books or taken from the latest TED lecture. But furrowed words born by experience, matured by struggle and evaluated by reflection as they have walked through life. Great speakers engross us with engaging stories from lived experiences. When flowing from deep within you comes a tsunami of conviction, energy, intensity and emotion about your subject, you will flourish as a speaker. (Tweet This)
- This is not an age issue, though ‘life’ experience gained over the years does help, but it’s speaking out of our own authenticity, truth and real life that captivates an audience.
- This is not a subject issue, though some subjects lean more towards using powerful life stories than others, but it’s being creative with the past, by being engaging in the present.
- This is not a circumstance issue, though some peoples lives overflow with the substance of stories, but it’s seeking out the extraordinary in the middle of the ordinary, and listening well to the pulsating sounds of life around us.
It is about choosing to live well, and then speaking out of that well of experience.
What Does It Mean To Live Well?
I am about to walk 800km from St Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Forty days and forty nights with just a rucksack, blister plasters and an ancient route to follow. This pilgrim path has been trod by many millions before over the last 1300 years. The dust of my feet will not leave a significant trace on that path, but I believe that the pilgrim path will leave a significant trace on my heart.
Taking A “Pause”
Why are you doing this, people ask? I am doing it to take a “pause,” to stop life for a while as I transition away from the career that I have had for the last seven years, to start a new adventure of being a full-time speaking coach, speech writer and executive educator. But it is also borne out of something far more important to me than that just that new chapter, it’s the ever present realisation that the road of my life is getting shorter. And, I want to walk the road that’s left fully and deeply.
“Few people know how to take a good walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humour, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence, limitless kindness and generosity and nothing else too much.” Emerson
Emerson described the qualifications needed for a good walk. He says that limitless love, kindness, generosity, knowing when to speak and, more importantly, knowing when to be silent. The ability to laugh, especially at yourself are good things to pack into the rucksack of life.
Are you walking well? Is the walk of your life, a life that is walked well? Do you ever think about what people will say about you after you have gone? Truth is, most of us want to leave a good legacy, don’t we? We want the steps of our days to say that we have walked this life well, that we learned how to take a “good walk.”
I Took The Road Less Travelled … It Made All The Difference
Robert Frost in his wonderful poem, with the lines, ‘The Road Less Travelled,’ clearly describes what we all really know to be true about life. We cannot walk the path of life again. He describes the choice made by the one who walked, there were two paths before him, two paths to walk, “knowing how way leads on to way…”
A moment and then it’s gone.
We can’t walk that way again. The person in that poem walked the road less travelled and it made all the difference. He walked well. He did not regret the path he walked. I don’t want to either – do you? It’s presumptuous to write your own legacy – you can think about it, certainly you can work towards it, but it will always be for someone else to write it. What will they write about you? I hope that my legacy will be that I walked well for the years that I was here. That I chose well, because I know I will not walk this path again.
Will Walking 800km Make Me a Better Public Speaker?
What has walking 800km got to do with with pubic speaking? What has plodding a pilgrim trail got to do with conviction, energy, intensity and emotion? Nothing, and everything! Speaking well means having something to say that’s real, that’s original, that’s lived. And, lived well. Audiences deeply connect with someone who speaks with conviction, energy, intensity and emotion. What that means for me is choosing each day the Road Less Travelled – what does it mean for you?
Will walking 800km make me a better public speaker? I’ll let you know…
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.” Emerson
By Peter Billingham
Image from Unsplash – Thanks to Peitho for the inspiration and excellent book Broadway Actors Present The Public Speaking Guide for Everyone for the four key qualities of a great speaker.