I really enjoyed listening to former German President Horst Koehler delivering his lecture at the Legon Great Hall to mark the launch of the John A. Kufuor foundation. While most people were assimilating his thought-provoking views on the social capital market and fitting it into their capitalist, socialist or centrist frameworks, I just chose to focus on the beauty of effective public speaking at work.
My interest was in how a man who spoke so differently and did not even come from our part of the world could endear himself so well to the packed audience and connect so directly to the issues underpinning our very existence. It wasn’t so much what was said as how it was delivered. For instance, speaking to the oft-repeated paradox of leaders asking their people to sacrifice while they do the very opposite, he said something to the effect that:
“The citizenry is patient when they are convinced that as they endure hard decisions, serious action is being taken about the things that concern them. When you sit in traffic and are assured that people ahead of you are moving and it will get to your turn, you will wait. Frustration only sets in when space is created ahead of you and others slip in while you wait.”
At another point, in apparent reference to the pressure that governments come under to depend on one economic model or the other, he said “When it comes to resource mobilisation and development, both the hit-and-run model and the Robin Hood model will not succeed in the long run.” Public speaking is not just about great content. Other factors like style, articulation, language, body language and the use of illustrations and anecdotes also matter.
Still not convinced? Who is the most oft-quoted head of state in Ghana? Is it not surprising that almost five decades years after leaving power, Kwame Nkrumah’s speeches remain the most frequently quoted by any Ghanaian leader? The man understood timing, style, crowd dynamics and the symbolism and iconography that countless leaders throughout history have often used to their advantage.
10 Attributes of the World’s Best Public Speakers
If public speaking is so essential for leadership success, what are the critical success factors? Here are ten attributes of the world’s best speakers. I have chosen to explain each one with a famous quote on public speaking:
1. Ability to Speak without Fear. “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” ~ Jerry Seinfeld (American comedian).
2. Effective Delivery. “There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.” ~ Dale Carnegie (Author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People”)
3. Brevity. “Be sincere; be brief; be seated.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt (32nd President of the United States)
4. Ability to Connect. “Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882, Philosopher and Poet).
5. Command of Their Subject. “Grasp the subject, the words will follow. ~ Cato The Elder (234 BC-149 BC, Roman statesman)
6. A sense of Timing. “Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening.” ~ Dorothy Sarnoff (1914-2008, American operatic soprano, musical theatre actress, and self-help guru).
7. Passion. “Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.” ~ D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930, English author and literary critic).
8. Constant Preparedness. “It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” ~ Mark Twain (1835-1910, Author and humorist)
9. Emotional Maturity. “Speak when you are angry—and you will make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” ~ Laurence J. Peter (1919-1990, Formulator of the Peter Principle).
10. That rare ability to actively engage people without really saying anything. “Public speaking is the art of diluting a two-minute idea with a two-hour vocabulary.”— Evan Esar
I hope you have enjoyed this. Have you identified any areas where you could improve as a public speaker? Get to work today. And may your next speech be better than the last one.
Peace & Many Blessings!!!