Churchill, Demosthenes and You

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Most people have decided before they graduate from high school whether or not they are cut out to be A Speaker. If your early experience in front of audiences was successful, odds are you continued to seek out opportunities to speak, continued to get positive feedback, continued to improve. On the other hand, if your early experiences were negative, you've probably been avoiding speaking situations like the plague. "I'm just not cut out to be a speaker," you said to yourself, and that was that.

If you're among those who decided early on that you like to speak, you already know, the more you speak the better you get. On the other hand, if you'd rather confront an angry pit bull in a fenced in yard than an audience of any size, I've got good news for you: Speakers are made, not born. Whether or not you become an excellent speaker will depend on a range of things from motivation to opportunity, but you can become a whole lot better than you are if you are determined enough.

If you think you can't make dramatic improvement, consider Demosthenes. He's the guy who put pebbles in his mouth (some three hundred years BC) to improve his diction and then spent hours shouting into the winds off the Aegean Sea to strengthen his voice.

Then, of course there is Winston Churchill. Churchill is a case study in determination. As a boy, he suffered from a severe lisp that took years of therapy and countless hours of hard work to overcome. By the time he took his seat in the British Parliament he thought of himself as an accomplished speaker until his maiden speech before the House of Commons. By all accounts, the reception he got was disastrous. Not only did his speech go badly, but he was totally unprepared for the questioning that followed.

A less determined man might have decided to throw in the sponge (or whatever proper British gentlemen do when confronted with impossible situations). What Churchill did was practice, practice, practice. Before facing the House of Commons a second time, he polished his arguments and spent hours in front of the mirror practicing his delivery. Then, remembering his embarrassment during the Q & A session that followed that first speech, Churchill started what was to become a life-long practice. He sat down and made a list of every conceivable question that might be asked and carefully crafted his responses. In the process, Sir Winston transformed himself into a speaker known for his rapier whit; a master of the comeback.

The army has a slogan: "Be all that you can be." To be all that you can be as a speaker, you need to work at it. For what to work on, check out my Ebook, Big Speeches to Small Audiences at You provide the pebbles, and Big Speeches will help you do the rest.

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