I enjoy public speaking and have for most of my adult life. I have also learned a great deal about how to be a better public speaker, in part from practice, and in part from reading I’ve done on the subject, and (as I wrote about in my book) my participation in a Toastmasters group. The fifth of my Six Simple Rules for a Better Life is “Be a Lifelong Learner” and learning how to effectively and confidently speak in public is a worthy goal for everyone.
I was recently in contact with James Greenward, author of a very nice book on the subject: Colossal Public Speaking. What I like about his book is that James is a regular guy and presents his ideas in a very easy-to-understand and practical way. I interviewed James about his book and am pleased to present that interview here.
Before we get into Colossal Public Speaking, tell us a bit about your background in public speaking.
Actually, I’m just an ordinary guy. I’m not famous, I don’t have any special qualifications. I’m not gifted and wasn’t born a naturally good speaker. I’m just your normal everyday person that you’ll find walking the streets. Unlike most people, however, I have found a way to successfully speak in public.
Not only wasn’t I born with special speaking talents, but I was always known as the shy one amongst just about everyone I knew. Then, about six years ago, something changed. Something that set me on the road to actually being able to speak in public, and remarkably, to do it better than pretty much every good speaker who I used to look up to.
Once I learned how to be a great public speaker, it became part of my everyday life. Especially at the office I worked in at the time. I was asked to give presentations at board meetings and later on I started to give talks to larger groups of people.
One of the things I noticed was that it was no harder speaking to a large audience than it was to a small one. After a few years, I left my office job and started to work freelance, either presenting for companies or helping them to present for themselves—I managed to get even the most novice of people to get up and speak.
Just over a year ago I began pursuing a new interest—sharing my secrets with the general public.
How did you learn to be a great public speaker?
In my early adult life, I had an office job which mostly involved sorting out the technical issues. Certain areas of the company were disorganized and I had ways of solving many of those issues.
But there was a problem. I had trouble getting my point across to other people. This was a source of immense frustration to me and I had no idea how to solve it. In addition, I was very shy about doing anything involving other people.
Then, one day I was invited to attend a board meeting. One by one, people got up to speak, and everyone sat there pretending not to be bored out of their minds. That was until one guy got up and delivered an outstanding presentation. It completely blew me away (as it did everyone else in the room). And it wasn’t that he was delivering a presentation on an interesting topic!
Afterwards, I asked him what his secret was. He said, “I wasn’t born with it, I learned it.” With that, I started on my journey into the world of public speaking.
I bought every single “how to” book on public speaking that I could find. After reading through stacks of books on public speaking, many of which were written by well-known experts, I realized that I was no closer to my goal than when I started. I was still struggling to even complete a sentence out loud. Not much of an achievement in my book.
I asked my boss at the time why this was happening. She explained to me that knowing something intellectually is not the same as truly understanding it.
That led me to a different tack as I realized that it wasn’t what I didn’t know that was my greatest hindrance, but the bad things that I believed to be true. Fortunately I managed to overcome those obstacles and went on to help many others do the same thing.
What led you to write Colossal Public Speaking?
First, I no longer work on a one-on-one basis with people on public speaking as I could not afford the time that it took to do so, especially as there are other interests that I am now pursuing. But, I didn’t want to just disappear without sharing my knowledge.
Second (and most importantly), I’m tired of all the books on public speaking which are not delivering the results they promise. And there’s a very good reason why. Those authors rarely understand the obstacles that ordinary people like us have to overcome. Most of those books were written by experts who were lucky enough to have never become trapped by the obstacles that most of us have, which ultimately means that they haven’t considered them (or at best have drastically underestimated them).
Colossal Public Speaking is written by a former novice (me), for the current novice (most people). It not only shows some of the special skills I’ve learned over the years, but also how to build yourself up from a complete novice, even if you are shy, like I was.
What are some of the important things that readers will learn from your Colossal Public Speaking?
As I said, one of the first things that I address is how to overcome those nasty obstacles bit by bit. Once that has been done, I then get down to the nitty-gritty of public speaking techniques that will leave audiences amazed. I also reveal the most common pitfalls that people fall into when trying to give presentations such as reading from a script. Another subject I cover is the use of multi-media, such as PowerPoint presentations. If used correctly, they can greatly enhance the presentation. If used incorrectly, they can destroy it. I go into detail about how to make sure you use it correctly.
Finally, I introduce the reader to the darker side of public speaking, revealing some of the dirty tricks that the most dishonest speakers in the world use to beat their opponents even when they (the opponents) are right. This is something that has been going on for thousands of years but is still subtle and hard to detect and effective for fooling a large number of people. Learning how to spot them will give you a much greater chance of beating them should you ever need to.
For anyone who really wants to learn how to speak in public, but feels like there are too many hurdles to overcome, I highly recommend Colossal Public Speaking. Remember, I was once in your shoes and I know just how daunting the whole prospect is for you. I overcame them and you can as well.
Click here for James Greenward’s Colossal Public Speaking (afflilate link).
What do you think? What are some of your secrets to confident speaking? What are some of your fears? Join the conversation with your comments.