I recently listened to a talk by Bo Easton in which he gives three tips for public speaking. It resonated with me because I have often talked about the same three things, and they have guided my own public speaking journey. Here they are:
1)Your Personal Story is the most valuable thing you have
The power of your personal story or life testimony cannot be overstated. It’s crucial to effective public speaking. Yet it is the first thing you are going to devalue. When I tell people my story, many people are inspired and some of my U.S. friends tend to think that because they don’t have a story that involves growing in poverty in Africa and then coming to the U.S. to become a physician, that means they can’t have a powerful story. Many people don’t say this out loud but I can perceive when they are thinking so. The truth is that everybody has an amazing story. They just don’t know how to tell it.
Effective public speaking isn’t simply about teaching people dry content or information. No. Speaking is an art form that allows us to unveil ourselves so that our fellow humans can read the book that is our lives. When we open up through public speaking so that our unembellished life speaks through us, we connect life on life with others.
Telling your personal story, Easton says, is not for the faint of heart. It’s one of the most heroic of acts you can do. It takes all the courage you can muster to go deep into your heart and reveal your true self in story form.
But it is the number one thing for connecting to people. Why? Because vulnerability is the new power.
Think of a speaker like Joyce Meyer. She connects with her audiences well by speaking often of the sexual abuse she underwent at the hands of her father. She talks of her extreme selfishness early on in her marriage, her lack of maturity then, and her husband Dave’s grace and love during those times. She is very vulnerable in her conferences. As a result, average people connect with her and can learn from her.
In the Olympics for example, the most vulnerable athlete, e.g. the gymnast who gives it all and bends into precarious positions without holding back is the one who touches hearts the most and is most likely to win.
When I talk about my dad to people, they don’t think about my dad, they think about their dads. When I talk about myself well, with humility, vulnerability, and passion, they don’t think about me, they think about themselves. Far from being a self-centered, it is a self-sacrificing act. Some people may initially think it’s self-centered to talk about yourself, but revealing yourself to the world unembellished is the best thing to do.
The more personal you make your story to be, the more vulnerable you are, the more powerful your speaking will become. Making it personal comes with a lot of pain but the power is in the pain. And it must be told artfully.
2)Bring physicality to the storytelling process
Effective public speaking is a performing art.
The physical body, every molecule inside you must act in tandem with your story. Think of ballet dancers like Mikhail Baryshnikov, Easton says, “they speak with their bodies. Think of animals, the wild cat, etc, they don’t speak with words but with their bodies.”
The body must be congruent to the story and speak it well. If you can communicate physically as well as orally, you will make a greater impact. When you are expressive with your storytelling, “your motion creates emotion.” People won’t believe every word you say but they will believe every action you make. They will believe your body because it’s harder to lie with your body.
3) Generosity, the lost art of giving all of yourself all the time
When one talks about generosity, the first thing that will come to mind is, for example, the $100 that you gave to charity, or the orphan you are sponsoring in Africa. That’s not what generosity in this case means. Generosity here means giving all of yourself all of the time. It is the hardest thing any human can do. It’s something you and are won’t likely do, but those who do it will become great.
Look at the artists who are successful, they give more to the profession than anyone else. And they have the scars to prove it. Consider Mikhail Baryshnikov mentioned above already. He gave more to the art of ballet than anyone else in his generation. His feet bear testimony of the sacrifice that he has made. They are the scars that have made him great.
It’s not free. There is a huge price to pay for it. The leader in a profession, the rightful leader is the one who has given more to the profession than anyone else. The elite football player has given more to the sport than his peers.
Serena Williams has given more to the game of Tennis than anyone else and she gets to be called the greatest player of all time.
Yet it is not always guaranteed, but the one who gives all of himself will be the one who leads.