The best speakers around -- better than Bill Clinton, Oprah, Jon Stewart -- are at Alchololics Anonymous (AA). Anyone can attend Open AA meetings (Just call your local AA for the schedule) so I took an anxious client to witness the greatest show on earth. When they talk about their recovery from demon booze, alcholics have the power to rivet, double people up with laughter, make crusty critters cry, and inspire everyone. Why?
That's what I told my client to figure out. He was due to give a speech about energy at a prestigious forum in the midwest and his timing, body language, passion about the subject, self-confidence were zero.
Well, Client got it, fast. Two speakers were scheduled. One, a man who had been a Master of the Universe on Wall Street, lost everything through drinking, sobered up and was making a comeback as, yeah really, a clown. The other, a woman who drank her way through being Perfect Wife sobered up to become a journalist, now interviewing prostitues, male and female, for a book.
Here's what The Client figured out:
They have a story. With a beginning, middle, end. So, that's it. Give the speech as a story, a narrative. Don't discuss abstract stuff.
They have suffered and bounced back. People, especially Americans, like to hear about suffering and salvation. Lesson: Explain how you or the nation screwed up in some way, got hammered for it, and then found redemption. Incidentally, that approach made Lee Iacocca a folk hero in the early 1980s.
They are sincere. Why do speakers so often forget that? Answer: They are so scared of speaking that they turn inward, focusing on themselves not on the needs of the audience.
They sincerely want their experience to help others. Lesson: Approach the speech as a public service.
The Client gave a mesmerizing speech about the story of how energy was causing so much emotional, financial, political suffering and here's what the nation can do to stop all that.
Maybe we should make AA meetings mandatory for all public speakers. Maybe there will be fewer boring speeches.