Speakers are a motley collection of experts, teachers, misfits and
crusaders (in the non-12th-century, deracinated version of the term).
We don’t have a union, and we’re mostly on our own while on the road, on
stage and in the search for new ideas.
We need a code.
Here’s my offering: Ten Tenets of Public Speaking. Let me know what I’m
missing, what you like, what you don’t like and what you’re drinking.
1. I am always learning. Just as every speech is an
opportunity to teach or persuade a new audience, so is it a chance to learn
from that audience. Speakers are never done learning. Speakers are always
open to—and never defensive about—finding someone who knows more than they
2. I will always make time for my fellow practitioners.
Good karma works for speakers, as for anyone else. We are kind to the
beginners, the stars, and the last-speech speakers, because we recognize
ourselves every step of the way. Every speaker’s career follows the same
[Event: 2017 Leadership and Executive Communications Conference]
3. I will never become a diva. Life’s too short and
changing the world too important for speakers to take themselves too
seriously. Every speaker ought to be treated with courtesy—and to treat
everyone they meet along the way with the same courtesy.
4. If I say I’ll do it, I will. The speaking business is
one of relationships, and consistency is the common currency of
engagements, occasions and moments. It’s a simple matter of integrity, in
dealings both big and small.
I’ll be a tiger negotiating and a kitten when I arrive on site
. We have every right to make the best deal we can and every duty to be
gracious on site. Putting on a conference or an event is a stressful,
detail-obsessed responsibility, and we won’t add to the burden. We will
haggle first, then work together.
My stage persona and my offstage persona are one and the same
. Integrity has always been important, but in the YouTube era it’s even
harder to get away with being, say, the Tithing Advocate on stage while
ignoring the homeless man outside the venue. Audiences measure the strength
of our message, at least in part, by whether we live it—and they will know.
I embrace my failures and successes—for what each can teach me.
A successful speech is the happy confluence of a speaker with passion, a
message with purpose and an audience with ears. Whether it goes well or it
doesn’t, there’s something to learn. There are no silly questions, just
fresh perspectives and new ways to think about our topics.
I understand that every speaker has a unique voice, so I won’t compare
Some speeches work well on some occasions and not so well on others, so
wise speakers don’t assume it’s all their own magnificence that created the
success. What they cultivate instead is their own voice. Uniqueness is
something born into us and re-learned over a lifetime.
9. I am authentic, yet sensitive about TMI. We live in an
age of authenticity, and that’s by and large a good thing, but no audience
wants to hear everything. The speaker must decide what to share
and what to keep private, what’s relevant and what isn’t.
10. I am in service to the message and to the audience.
The only reason to give a speech is to change the world—not to change the
speaker’s tax bracket. Speakers recognize they are part of something
larger. The opportunity to speak to an audience is a great gift, one that
speakers treasure always.
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