Episode #254: Imagine the Audience in Their Underwear…Not! Public Speaking Skills

Would you like to be a better public speaker?

American journalist Roscoe Drummond said: “The mind is wonderful thing. It starts working the minute you’re born and never stops until you get up to speak in public.” Is it really true that people fear public speaking more than they fear death?

Here are Ron’s Rules for Better Public Speaking

  1. Don’t pain the listener

  2. Never talk down to your audience. Risk talking over their heads! That’s what makes the great books great, why they are constantly re-read: they are over our heads.

  3. Intimately know your material

  4. Don’t be afraid of repetition — the audience can’t go back and listen again

  5. Q&A is your chance to learn — Otherwise you’ve learned nothing listening to yourself

  6. You’ll never be able to please everyone — don’t cast pearls to swine. My brother Ken used to say: “One-third of the audience thinks you look like their Ex and will be pre-disposed not to like you no matter what you say.”

  7. Don’t point at the audience

  8. If there’s a stage, use it! It magnifies your presence.

  9. It’s about them; not you — humility is your friend

 Ed’s Rules Are Equally As Important

  1.  The only way to get better at public speaking is to speak in public

  2. Connection before content

  3. Begin with a story or quote. Actually, just begin with anything other than your name.

  4. Be Bertolt Brecht

  5. If you can, get introduced by someone else

  6. Don't be afraid to take a chance

  7. Steal from the best, but develop your own style

  8. Use the stage, but don’t be afraid to get off at certain point

During this show, we discussed a few books that can help you as well. 

Simply Speaking [hardcover edition], Peggy Noonan, 1998, On Speaking Well [paperback edition]

From these books, there are three things to keep in mind about your speech:

  • It doesn’t need to last longer than 20 minutes — because Ronald Reagan said so. The Gettysburg address and Sermon on the Mount were 3 minutes. The more important the message, the less time required to say it. The language of love is simple because it is big: It’s a boy; it’s over; he’s dead. 

            “For a speech to be immortal it need not be interminable” 

  • Yes, you should write out the text

  • Humor is essential

Peggy says most important component is logic when you look at Ethos, Pathos, and Logos:

  • Ethos—a person’s character (honesty, goodwill, etc.)

  • Pathos—arousing the passions of listeners, emotions

  • Logos—marshaling of reason

Where there is no substance, style will perish; you can’t be eloquent about nothing. Coco Chanel used to say if a women walks into a room and people say “What a dress!” she failed. She wants folks to say, “Oh, you look fabulous.” That’s success. After your speech, you want people to say, “She’s very intelligent, and made some interesting points.” Not, “Oh, what an interesting speech.”

How to Speak, How to Listen, Mortimer J. Adler, 1983

In this book we learn that reading and writing can be solitary and are easier to teach than speaking and listening, which are social. Technically, you can’t give a “talk” but you can have one. You can only deliver a speech with an audience. Listening, like reading, is an activity of the mind, not the ear or eye. If the mind is not engaged, you are hearing, not listening.

Strictly Speaking, Reid Buckley, 1999

This author is William F. Buckley’s younger brother who passed away in 2014. He ran The Buckley School of Public Speaking in Camden, SC. The premise of the book is that, crudely stated, public speaking = persuasion = selling.