5 Powerful Lessons That Will Get You Speaking on Par With The Best

by Eric Feng, The Public Speaking Blog.

“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward!”  Rocky Balboa

I have never watched a single Rocky movie even though my roommate and dad are huge fans. However after Monday’s presentation by a phenomenal speaker, I will most likely watch ALL 6 of them.   Read on to find out why.

In the previous article, I shared four best practices that the speaker adopted which got his audience — including myself — mesmerized and inspired almost immediately.

In this article, I am going to do a spin to five of the life lessons he has shared and show you how they can also be aptly applied to improving your speaking skills.

1. Embrace failure as a wonderful thing

Personally, this advice is new to me. I have heard about how we should always learn from our failures and also the importance of falling forward (thanks Darren LaCroix!). However, I never hear anyone encouraging me to fail. Not even my parents. Perhaps this is because there is a huge taboo attached to failing. And failure is usually associated as something negative and embarrassing which causes people to avoid it vehemently.

However, on second thought, the speaker is right. Failure is a very good thing and should be embraced. When you fail, it immediately gives you feedback on what doesn’t work and what works. The same principle applies to self-evaluations.

Admittedly, I learn the most when I made mistakes. The more serious it is, the more memorable the lesson becomes. For example, how I embarassed myself in front of 800 people while delivering a nuclear energy speech at high school. This incident alone has provided me with the impetus to improve in my public speaking skills. And the drive was so great that it gave me the courage to compete internationally. Also inspired were the other champions of life, like Rocky.

So my friend, if you have not failed enough in your public speaking, please do so AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. And please do so intelligently. You won’t want to fail at your most critical presentation or in front of your boss, will you?

Hence the best way is to increase your stage time, which gives you more opportunities to take risks; for example, trying a new technique or speaking on a unknown topic.

And when you fail, learn and improve. When you succeed, relish your victory and then take another risk. The more chances you give yourself to fail, the more opportunities you give yourself to grow.

For those of you who have failed a lot and are still defeated, I urge you to watch the Rocky video clip. Failures are expected. Failures are necessary. What counts is not your fall. What counts is PICKING YOURSELF UP. Remember it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward!

2. Remarkable people do the extremes.

This was one of the observations that the speaker made after studying remarkable people for 20 years. Say Tiger Woods, considerably the best golf player in the world. He will practice ONE stroke for 12 to 14 hours! To us, this is crazy. But to him, this is merely a demonstration of his passion for the sport, a demonstration of his commitment to his skill. How many people have such discipline?

Another worthy mention is my mentor Kelvin Lim. He is by far the best coach I have ever met and also one of the best in Asia (FYI, he was awarded Master Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation, the highest recognition you can give to a coach.) And yes, he was also one of the authors of The FAQ Book on Public Speaking. Unlike some coaches out there who get qualified just by attending a 4 day coaching program, Kelvin was trained for 12 years before he could even coach a real client. 12 years!

How about you? How can you go to the extreme in your pursuit to becoming a powerful speaker? If you haven’t been speaking regularly, how can you change that? If you haven’t been reading materials on public speaking, how can you change that? For those of you who have been consistent in your public speaking education, how can you take it to the next level?

Remember, true masters go to the extreme and if you want to be as powerful as them, you got to go to the extreme. Instead of spending one hour everyday studying public speaking, can you spare three hours instead? Instead of attending one Toastmasters meeting, can you attend one every week instead? Instead of just reading tips from my blog, can you commit to a coaching program that gives you the opportunity to see results in a shorter span of time? If you have yet to see MASSIVE growth in your speaking ability, chances are you have not walked the extra mile.

3. Kaizen without limits

Kaizen is a Japanese word that represents continuous self improvement. Again, masters make this lesson a daily habit. Tiger Woods, the best golf player in the world, spends hours every day perfecting his swing. James Galway, the flutist superstar, starts his day by playing the scales. Mark Brown, world champion of public speaking of 1995, is re-doing his basic speech manual that all Toastmasters start out with. These masters understand one thing. The only way to stay at the top is to keep working on their skills, even to the extent on training their basics.

There is a saying that if you find a field of interest and study it for a minimum of one hour every day, in five years time, you will become an expert in that given field! So likewise, if you ever want to become a powerful and impactful speaker, you got to start doing CONSISTENT work. One time-tested strategy is by making a commitment that you will learn at least ONE new thing that will help you improve your speaking skills.

Just one. It could be a inspiring quote you can use in your next speech. It could be an eye contact technique that you saw another speaker use with great success. It could be a success formula you learn here that you can apply in your next presentation. Anything. As long as it helps you move forward. Go the extreme, and kaizen without limits!

4. Don’t set goals!

Instead, set adventures for yourself! Goals vs. adventures. Which is more fun? Which is more exciting? Which is more promising? Adventures, of course, because of the positive connotations. So instead of coming up with singular goals like “become more confident in my next presentation”, inject some fun in your next goal. Combine a few goals together and design a story around it. What is the kind of impact you want to create for your audience? Describe in full details — what would you SEE, what would you HEAR, what would your audience SAY to you?

Setting an adventure also means that there is no hard and fast rules on how to get there. In fact, there are infinite ways to get there and you should explore as many of them as you can. It’s like how you explore a new city. It becomes boring when you rely on a map because you never get to have random encounters which may prove more meaningful. And while you are at it, enjoy the journey.

5. Always choose the path of least resistance.

Human beings are motivated by two things — avoidance of pain and enjoyment of pleasure. One of the reasons why you are reading this blog is because you hate losing face in front of people and you want to get rid of the possible embarrassment. There may be some of you who are passionate about public speaking and hence you like to find new strategies for approaching public speaking. Either way is fine. However if you are here for the long haul, I suggest you pick the path of least resistance.

This is especially so for people who are fearful of public speaking, for whatever reasons. Instead of getting stuck with these reasons, I suggest you do this — associate something pleasurable to public speaking. If you are someone who loves to grow (pleasure), remind yourself that no matter how bad it turns out, there will always be a lesson to mine and this will keep your nerves in check. If you are someone who loves attention, this is going to motivate you to spend more time sharpening your tongue (even though you hate the long hours involved). If you are someone who aspires to change the world, learning public speaking skills become necessary because words can move the world.

Take note, pain and pleasure are merely two ends of the same spectrum. So instead of getting stuck with all the pain and misery, switch gears and get yourself acclimatized to the possible pleasures of speaking in public. In time to come, you will love the art. I am a living proof.

So there you go, FIVE powerful lessons that will ensure you speak at your best. Let me summarize.

1. Embrace failure as a wonderful thing.
2. Remarkable people go to the extremes.
3. Kaizen to the limit.
4. Do not set goals, set adventures instead!
5. Always choose the path of least resistance

Finally, here’s a fun exercise.  It will only take about 10 mins but chances are, you will enjoy it so much that you will keep going.

Here’s the exercise.

Take a blank piece of paper and start writing down what you want to achieve in the domain of public speaking. You can apply this to other parts of your life too. What would you write down if whatever you write will come true? What would you write down if you can start afresh?

This is your chance to set an adventure for yourself. Tell me in full details and color, what kind of speaker do you want to become? How do you want your audience to behave before, during and after your presentation? How do you want to feel each time you are up on stage? What do you want to experience when you are up there delivering your speech? What kind of impact you want to create for your audience? If you get to choose three topics to speak on, what will they be? And if there are particular talents you will like to have as a speaker, what will they be?

WRITE THEM ALL DOWN…with no reservation. Watch your internal conversations. Notice how you sabotage yourself by telling yourself that what you wrote down is pure bulls**t, and they will never come true. Ignore these voices. They don’t serve you. Instead I want you to have fun generating them. This could be YOU if you let it.

Once you are done, read it one more time. Pick three things out of your wish list that you can start working on. Incorporate the five lessons that I just shared with you. Most importantly, TAKE ACTION.

I repeat, TAKE ACTION.

It could just be doing ONE thing everyday. That’s good enough. The rest will take care of itself.

See you at the top!

Eric Feng, The Public Speaking Blog.  Eric is a energetic, young speaker and coach from Singapore.  Visit his blog and web site for lots of great information on becoming a powerful speaker.