Public Speaking is an art form, borne of confidence, passion and clarity of thought. It also takes preparation, and time (experience). I used to hate the notion of being singled out in class, now, 40 years on, I love the chance to speak in public, and try to improve every time. 13 years of school teaching probably helped (if you were not on your game, or ill prepared, you were, rightfully, eaten alive.)
Last week I attended 5 very different events where various people spoke publicly (breakfasts, sundowners, luncheons, and all day conferences), and I also got to be a moderator in a panel, and spent one day delivering 7 hours of lectures. A talkfest! As usual the speakers ranged from the boringly dull, cringingly dreadful to the stunningly inspirational. Some were seasoned professionals, and some were fairly new to it. Some were household names, others I’d never heard of. But all were having a go.
By the far the best was Ernesto Sirolli who spoke at TEDxPerth last Saturday on the subject of sustainable development. He sauntered out onto stage, and standing on the famous circular red carpet, he immediately started telling stories that captured his audience. “How stupid are white people,” he asked, “when we are trying to do good in poor countries?” In one project he tried to bridge a river, only to realise that once it was half built (which took many months) the river itself moved about kilometre every year, making the whole exercise redundant. In another he grew the most lovely Italian tomatoes, only for the hippos to come out and eat them all. “You want to help local people? Shut up and listen!” he implored. He went on to passionately intone about all the good that lay in the Millennials (20-30 year olds), and how they were going to solve the problems of the next 100 years. He walked off to a standing ovation. A similar talk he gave to Tedx in New Zealand garnered 2 million views on Ted.com.
Another Tedx Perth speaker was Sash Milne; she is the Perth Mum who last Christmas decided that she was never going to buy anything new again (bar food and petrol), so revolted she was about the commercialisation of the season, and how much rubbish we end up buying. You could have heard a pin drop, it was a powerful message, explaining how she connected with people, when she abandoned ‘material things’. Her voice crackled with emotion. It was spell-binding. I doubt she’s had much experience in public speaking, but the power, belief and passion came over. It made it even stronger.
I’m not criticising the other people I heard at TEDx or the other events I attended, but these 2 stood out for me. Two very different speakers, both electric, speaking from the heart, taking their message to the audience, and, importantly, communicating clearly with passion and belief.
It’s not that hard is it?!