Way back in the 1970s or 1980s, when I determined to become the best speaker I could be, I bought a little yellow and black coloured book titled: Teach Yourself Public Speaking. It was written by an Englishman by the name of Peter Westland. In it, he described and elaborated on the five requisites of a great public speaker. Those five qualities, skills and knowledge have remained in my memory all of those years. I’d like to describe them to you – in my own words – because after over four decades of speaking to audiences, I still believe they are probably the most important points you’ll ever be given on how to become that ‘great public speaker.’
I list them and describe them below.
A burning desire to succeed is essential. You won’t get there unless you have this. You need to daydream, visualize, and self-talk your way to the point where your subconscious mind accepts that this is what you want. Once registered in your subconscious, your motivation will be firmly established. It will have become a habit and you will succeed.
An audience can always see through insincerity and something which is not really important or believed by the speaker. The confidence trickster is universally despised. But the man or woman, who speaks from the heart, even though they are awkward in their presentation, always makes a positive impression. So be as close to you can be to the ‘genuine’ you.
You have to have a good knowledge of your subject. You don’t have to be the most knowledgeable on that subject in the room. But you must know more than the average audience member on that subject. Why else would they come to listen to you?
Your words are your ‘tools of trade.’ The sorts of words you need to learn are those colourful, descriptive words that can depict shades of difference. They do not need to be long, polysyllabic words. The monosyllable words are by far and away the most powerful. Words such as cut, hit, strike, push, pull, sit, chop, crash etc. Generally, the shorter the word the more powerful it is.
You also need those synonyms that describe, e.g. for walked: strolled, sauntered strode, marched, strutted, meandered limped, plodded, tottered, et cetera.
Practice, practice, practice. Take up every opportunity to speak in public. It has been said that it takes ten years to really establish yourself as an ‘expert’ in most fields. Public Speaking is no different. You advance in proportion to your willingness to ‘keep on keeping on.’