This year I have had some amazing opportunities to share my story, from small groups to enormous ones, from local television to national. I used to have serious, sometimes debilitating nerve bugs prior to speaking. The Silver Lining is that now, while the nerve bugs are certainly present, I do my very best to redirect the negative bugs into positive energy. All that said, I am always looking for ways to improve my public speaking skills. Recently, I learned about Dananjaya Hettiarachchi who was recently named the World Champion of Public Speaking by Toastmasters International. He went through 7 rounds of competition against 33,000 people from around the world (can you even imagine?). The compeition took over 6 months and ended in Kuala Lumpus, Malaysia where Hettiarachchi gave his speech titled “I See Something”. And let me tell you… it was nothing short of amazing!!
Here are a few of his pointers:
1. Always start with a message. Instead of starting with a topic (like many speakers do), start with a concise message that you want your audience to be thinking about when your speech concludes. This was keep your audience engaged with the overall meaning of your presentation and not leave them waiting for concluding remarks to get the full picture.
2. Be confident enought to be yourself. Hettiarachchi says “You have to sell yourself before you can sell your message”. The only way to do this is to be as genuine as possible. This means a speech should be conversational as much as possible. Stay away from acting or being theatrical. This also means… PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE!! The more you know your speech, the more comfortable and genuine you will be on stage.
3. See yourself through your audience’s eyes. When speaking, it’s important to remember that you are doing it for the benefit of others… not yourself. When you take the time to listen to your own speech as if you were in the audience, you will most likley be able to cut away parts of your speech the audience doesn’t NEED to hear —The parts that you added in because they were only significant to you.
4. Have a forum to practice. The best way to become a good public speaker is by trial and error. Give your speech to an audience that you know will be honest with you and give you accurate and informative feedback. Hettiarachchi says that he loves to give his speeches to children because very rarely do they hold back thier honest opinions.
5. Find the right coach or mentor. This person does not need to be a fellow professional public speaker. In fact, they just need to be someone that knows your personality well and in order to challenge you to push toward your goal of sharing your true self with others.
Here is the video of Hettiarachchi’s winning speech. Watch how quickly he is able to get the audience to laugh, answer a question, and bring them into sobriety all within a matter of seconds. It was clear that Hettiarachchi captured his audience and hit home with his message!