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The power of public speaking

What is it about public speaking? Whether that refers to informing or entertaining a hall full of people or just presenting on your feet to half a dozen colleagues or clients, it ranks in the top ten of people’s greatest phobias. But it is an irrational fear. There is no reason why you should fail as a public speaker or presenter. Public speaking is a skill, like driving a car. And it can be taught. Here, author Vaughan Evans tells us how.

 

I am not a professional speaker, nor a salesman, lecturer or lawyer. I am a consultant in business strategy. With a speaking hobby.

 

This hobby originated when I stood for Parliament in 1990-92. I figured I knew my party policies well enough, but communicating them in front of an audience of five, twenty, even five hundred was a daunting, even alarming, prospect.

 

I asked the party. They suggested a course at a college of further education. I went along and sat in a circle around a chap who showed us how to exercise the voice by pulling ridiculous faces and making obscene sounds – which he suggested we practise on the Tube on the way home. I didn’t. Nor did I return.

 

I was despondent, but that very evening my wife came across an advert in the classified pages of a journal which said simply: ‘Want to learn how to speak in public? Call now!’. I did. The woman was astonished to hear from me. Mine was the first response to the ad, which had been placed a year beforehand!

 

Nevertheless, she told me of a public speaking club that had recently opened at a boathouse in Chiswick, West London. Was that anywhere near me, she asked? Near? It was just the other side of the river from me! Was this fate?

 

I went along to the very next club meeting – and have been going ever since.

 

As for my political career, the electorate had other ideas. But my hobby had been born. Over the next two and a half decades I spoke frequently at the club, won the major speech contests as often as not and mentored many a member on their speaking journey.

 

Each year I was asked if I would join the committee and take on the presidency, but I always replied I would do so only when I had enough time to do it justice – once my family had grown up.

 

Twenty-three years later I took on the role. It requires the delivery of a short, introductory, warm-up talk at the opening of each meeting. I decided to use these mini-speeches to convey, especially to novice speakers, all I had learned along the way about public speaking. Each speech dealt with one facet of speaking. Each speech focused solely on the three or so most important tips about that facet. And, above all, each speech was designed as much to entertain as inform.

 

Club members enjoyed them – and said they benefited from them – especially the starter speakers.

 

Some speeches were filmed. You might find them fun and useful too – just punch my name into Google, click on the ‘Videos’ tab and take a look!

 

I transcribed the speeches onto the club blog. Members enjoyed reading those too, especially those who were absent at the time.

 

The blog became this book.

 

This is not an in-depth treatise on the subject. It gives you the tips that matter, the ones that make the difference. And it delivers them jovially, wittily and vividly.

 

Read the book and you will survive as a speaker or presenter.

 

Follow it and you’ll thrive.

 

This article is extracted from Stand, Speak Deliver! by Vaughan Evans.