It always seems impossible until its done

* First appeared in The Atlantic Post

“When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.”
– Nelson Mandela, 1994

Nelson Mandela’s life, legacy and contributions to humanity will be studied for generations to come.

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“The only thing we have to fear is… fear itself.”
– President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Fear and anxiety surrounding public speaking is nothing new. Google “Cure for the Fear of Public Speaking” and you will return over 2 million results. 2 million!

Most individuals experience some degree of anxiety and/or nervousness prior to presenting. Two of the greatest orators of the past two centuries, Sir Winston Churchill and President Abraham Lincoln,

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Demosthenes

What lengths would you go to in order to become a master orator, or to take  your public speaking to the next level?

Stand barefoot on blacktop while reciting your speech to test your patience and create proper cadence?

Practice on a tightrope to master balance and control over motion?

Of course not – and you shouldn’t!

I wrote about Demosthenes and the lengths he is rumored to have gone to in order to become one of the legendary Orators of the Greek Empire,

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Calm your fears

1. Prepare: The more you prepare and the better handle you have on the material you are presenting, the better it will go.

2. Practice: Once you have prepared, you MUST practice, early and often. Rumor has it that Churchill practiced for one hour per one minute of speech content he was delivering. 5 minute presentation = 5 hours practice. How long are you practicing?

3. Check out the Room: Familiarity breeds comfort.

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William Bourke Cockran

Today is a special day in the world of public speaking and communication. Today is the 89th anniversary of the death of William Bourke Cockran, who in my estimation may be one of the greatest speakers of all time.  Who is William Bourke Cockran, and how can I make such a bold statement, having never witnessed him speak, as he passed away well before speeches were recorded on video?

I have been fascinated by the ability of an individual to influence through spoken word since I was a young boy.  

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Design is how it works, Steve Jobs

The speed at which information travels has rendered most news dated within hours; days if a story really has “legs.”  To last through multiple news cycles is very rare.  The passing of Steve Jobs has done just that, and for good reason.  Over the past decade, very few (if any) executives  have had the impact on the way we communicate the way that Steve Jobs has.

What made Steve Jobs an effective communicator was not innovation or new technology.  

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“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression” – Will Rogers

This quote certainly holds true for speeches, presentations, group meetings and any other public speaking opportunity that exists.   Your opening often determines just how much of your presentation the audience is going to “tune in” for.   If the first impression the audience has is “B-O-R-I-N-G’ there is little chance of the presentation effectively reaching that audience.

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How to open a speech

The audience is seated.  The lights dim and the room quiets.  All eyes are on the dais.   All too often, this is what is heard to open the speech or presentation:

“Hi, thank you for having me.  It is an honor to be here with you today.   My name is ____ _______, and I am going to be speaking to you today about_______.”

Looking around, here is what I tend to see:

1) People reviewing a physical copy of the program,

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