10 dos and don’ts of public speaking

David Brooks, a former world champion of public speaking, spoke at our Toastmasters club this week. A lot of what we learned from him applies to the Usual Error Project workshops, and some of it applies to communication in general. Here’s what we took away from his speech.

1. Make a point, tell a story. Points and stories go hand in hand. (This made us really happy because it’s exactly what we do in our workshops, and it’s exactly how we wrote our book.)

2. Don’t be egotistical. At least, if you’re going to be egotistical, don’t do it in a oneupsmanship kind of way. Don’t knock others down to lift yourself up.

3. Don’t talk about how awesome you are and how many qualifications you have. Your audience has already showed up to see you; let your content and form sell itself. But it is okay to talk about yourself as long as you make a…

4. “You-turn”. Take you-related things and turn them around to your audience so they can find a message in it that applies to themselves.

5. Don’t make a blatant sales pitch and then say something like “I’m not trying to sell, merely to invite.” It makes you seem fake, inauthentic, and may cause people to mistrust your motive. If you’re selling something, be honest and straightforward about it. If you truly believe that your product or service provides value to others, you can sell it authentically without sounding like a salesperson.

6. Evoke emotions — everyone can relate to these six emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust. Evoke them with vivid imagery and emotional stories. (It’s good, especially for freaky people, to share something that we have in common with the audience members.)

7. Write your speech word for word. (We disagreed with him on this, but that’s because we mainly do workshops, not speeches.)

8. Don’t put audience members on the spot or single them out. Simply pointing at someone can make them feel on the spot.

9. Make people laugh, but don’t tell jokes to do it. Instead, tell stories from your own life that are funny and genuine.

10. Be authentic. Use stories from your own life. Talk about your passions, your loves, your life — things you really and truly care about.

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