Fight for the Spotlight: Contests of Public Speaking
Inspired by this piece – give it a read and then come back here.
One of the best speakers whom I’ve had the honor of listening to is myself. It helps when I’m in front of large crowds when I speak so I can see my reflection in their widened, awestruck eyes – that image is what gives me confidence. I remember walking into a room filled with relatively obscure people, perhaps famous in their own lives and to those significant to them, but to me they were nothing but an audience to be entertained. We were a small group of around 30, some of us under 30 and some well over, and none of us listed in Forbes magazine – or so we assumed, since they their site stops anyone with an adblocker from getting through.
Once I started speaking, the environment in the room was excited, almost palpable – a word so disgusting that I made a mental note to avoid using it in any speeches forthwith. Five minutes in, I had the audience laughing uproariously one moment and wiping away tears the next, a testament to their tear ducts the size of Zac Efron’s biceps. Ten minutes in, I had them up on their feet, since it was a standing reception, and promising to lift each other up so we could burn off all the calories from the champagne.
So what makes me such an incredible orator? In case you’re wondering, you kind of have to have a mic, which is why I put that picture above. Through my experiences of speaking, like talking to people in daily life, and talking to lots of people with whom I don’t want to talk, and actually being generally lauded as competent in the use of the English language, I’ve learned some things about public speaking that I want to share. It would be presumptuous of me to say that there are only four things you need to understand about public speaking. So here’s five:
1) Listen: The best way to be a strong public speaker is to be an attentive listener, in case that wasn’t readily apparent by starting this off with the word ‘listen.’ This goes in the same category of blinking, having a heartbeat, and quizzically raising your eyebrows from time to time – all default activities your body does. I learned this from watching TED talks, which are different from Ted talks – those are just clips of some teddy bear and drunk dude smoking weed on their couch.
2) Develop Your Own Style: Learning curves are for pussies, right? Or you could, you know, find good speakers and learn what makes them good. And imitate those things.
3) Practice Smart: “Never mistake motion for action.” Especially during sex, because that’ll definitely be your downfall. The conclusion of your speech is particularly important, because you want to wake up your audience after your super-boring beginning and middle that you never bothered practicing. You have to receive immediate feedback, which is why you should practice in a mirror, because you’re always your own best critic.
4) Define Your Goal: When I teach a class about public speaking, if I ever stoop so low, I’m going to have a question on the application saying why they want to take the class, and whether they’d pull a Marco Rubio and bring water to the podium. It wouldn’t make sense to have a question that actually tells me something about them instead of giving them room to pander. But you know, setting goals of limited scope inhibits the true power of public speaking. But still, let me give you a goal anyway – make your audience your bitch. Make them beg for more words when you’re done, and leave them as unsatisfied as you are thirsty.
5) Work With Your Audience: I love laughing at other people’s pain, a sentiment that millions of other people share judging by the success of America’s Funniest Home Videos. Your audience is subconsciously rooting for you to slip up – to stumble over a word or forget your next line, something which they can use to lower you from your elevated platform and bring you down to the masses. If you’re a motivational speaker, most of your audience probably doesn’t work, so how can you work with them? The same holds if you’re a politician, or a teacher. To quote someone relevant, “learning curves are for pussies.” Yeah, I quoted myself from earlier, because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you write an opinion piece. Sources are for dissertations.
Tying it all together, you can connect people through the power of word. Which is not that hard, because if someone comes up to you and asks you for tips on public speaking, just say “word,” kind of like Jay-Z would say it. Now, that’s confidence.
Uday is currently a Senior who tried to study Business Administration at UC Berkeley, but the Haas school didn’t really want him. He has no idea where he’ll be working at graduation.
Comment by Senneth Kuh: A fan-fucking-tastic article! Since it’s written on the internet, I think it counts as an article by default, too!
Comment by David Leeway: Extremely helpful! I wish you the best in your future endeavors – you’re going to need it.
Comment by Peter Petiglee: Awesome. As in, some of it brings about awe.
Comment by Ricky Hu: Uday, excellent article that captures the heart of public speaking, and rips it right out. Currently I’m the President of the Timemasters in the Illuminati, and I’m going to share this with our members!
Again, inspired by this piece – click over if you haven’t already.