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Blog this: Effective Public Speaking

Posted by joeabbott on July 4, 2012

I’m one of the many who have an extreme aversion to public speaking; I get tongue-tied, confuse my word use, and spend way too much time thinking about speaking than I do communicating. I also realize it’s a critical skill and one that, if you master it, you’ll go far. When I worked at Boeing, an elderly lead engineers took me aside and offered me the advice: “if you ever get a chance to speak publicly, do it. You will always grow and gain significantly from it.”

And so I’ve taken that advice and find it to be true. That said, I still fear public speaking and would rather do just about anything else.

However, it’s because of that advice and my appreciation of its value that I cleave to the notion of doing it well, and why I collect tidbits of guidance and “rules” for public speaking. I came across the following at one point and, unfortunately, failed to capture its source. I share it with you candidly admitting I don’t know where it came from, can’t vouch for it’s veracity, and am unable to even replicate these few principles in a quick web search. Caveat emptor.

Dale Carnegie 8 Principles to Effective Public Speaking

1.  The "Magic Formula" to motivate people to action

  • Earn the right to talk about your study and experience
  • Be excited about your topic, even technical ones
  • Demonstrate that you are eager for your listeners to benefit

2. Make brief notes of the interesting things you want to mention.

3. Don’t write out your talks.

4. Never memorize a talk word for word.

5. Fill your talk with illustrations and examples.

6. Know far more about your subject than you can use.

7. Get Over Yourself! Instead of worrying about your delivery, find ways of improving it.

8. Don’t imitate others; be yourself.

And that’s it.

The more I look at that list, the less I’m confident that I love it: items  2, 3 and 4 look suspiciously similar, there’s not enough detail to appreciate the difference between “getting over yourself” (7) and “be yourself” (8), and as a practical guide to effective public speaking, these items say less to me now than they did when I snagged the items originally.

So, to help those interested in learning (or at least appreciating) public speaking, I’ve found this free ebook online: The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie. It’s a 1915 treatise on the subject of public speaking and covers a far broader range of topics than those listed above. So, while I “blogged this” on a quick list of tips for public speaking, my book reading list has just been increased by one.


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