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The Art of Public Speaking

The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!

If you’re doing this whole “passionpreneur” thing correctly, doing what you love and making money at it, then at some time in your journey, you’ll probably be asked to give a public talk, or sit for a radio or television interview.

You see, when you’re good at what you do, people will seek you out to pick your brain for your expertise, or ask you to share your story of your experience.

I often receive e-mails from new authors, business owners, artists and even those on the other end of the microphone—the consultants, television and radio hosts—who seek my advice as to how to get over the nervousness, and successfully master the art of public speaking and interviewing.

Here, then, are a few general tips to help in-person public speakers, as well as live on-air interviewers and interviewees alike.

It was inspired by a recent e-mailer who said:

“...I feel no matter how much I prepare for these dang things, they always seem to take on a life of their own. In other words, they never go as planned. A lot of times, I (as the interviewer) get the nervous, not so enthusiastic, first time radio interviewees and then I end up screwing up somewhere along the way....I’d really like to get better at this.”

—Radio Guy

Dear Radio Guy,

I used to have the same challenge. Here’s what I learned:

First, be clear on your purpose

The first, and most important thing to be clear about is your reason for doing the interview or making the speech. If you are an author, entrepreneur, or artist, your goal is to share your expertise or experience—to enlighten or entertain—position yourself as an expert, and sell your product or service if you can.

If you are the radio/TV host, your goal is to help your guest get their information out in a way that makes them look good, positions them as an expert and encourages listeners and viewers to buy whatever they are selling, or take whatever specific action is desired.

In order for your appearance to proceed in a logical, sensible and satisfying way, everyone should be clear on their purpose.

It’s a conversation, silly!

The next thing to understand is this is not a performance. It’s a conversation, and a good conversation rarely ever—and should NEVER—go according to a plan! It should flow back and forth naturally between the interviewer and the interviewee; between speaker and audience.

Therefore, the only thing you need to get comfortable with is your ability to listen to the other person, guide them smoothly to the points each of you wants to make, and engage the rest of your audience at the same time.

In my opinion, a script is an insult to your intelligence, a block to your intuition, and kills the spontaneity and the authenticity of the moment you’re in. You’re a smart enough person to think on your feet. It’s pretty easy once you are clear about your purpose.

The most important thing I’ve learned

What I’m about to share is the most important thing I’ve learned over the years of giving talks and interviews. The most important determining factor for the success of your speaking event or interview is something that you can never know ahead of time, and that is the “energy” in the room at the time you make your appearance. In other words, the needs, moods, attitudes, experiences as well as the combination of specific individuals in the room at the moment you step to the podium or get on the microphone will determine what they want to hear, what they ask you, and how best to answer their needs. That is something you can not prepare for.

For example, if you prepare for a talk geared toward college seniors, and then discover that everyone in the room is actually a college freshman, then you will not be serving them appropriately by giving them a rehearsed speech written for seniors. You must adapt to meet the needs of your audience in the moment.

Whenever I give a talk, I always start with interactive questions so that I can get a feel for who is in the room, and why they came. I’m there, not simply to give a talk, but to serve the needs of the moment.

Admittedly, this is a little trickier if I’m sitting for a radio interview with no one calling in by phone. In that case, however, I have to become the listener, speak on their behalf even as I speak to them, and use the relationship they have with the host of the show as a bridge into their collective mind. (yeah, I know that’s a bit cryptic and new-agey,but....)

What if i don’t know the answer?

This is perhaps the crux of people’s fear of giving public talks or sitting for interviews without adequate preparation. They don’t want to be embarrassed, be blindsided by a question, appear not fully knowledgeable, prepared, or informed. Quite simply, they don’t want to look like an idiot.

Sure, it’s good to do research. It’s advisable to know your material. But, as we’ve already determined, even with all the preparation in the world, the needs of the room at a given moment can result in questions you haven’t anticipated. You shouldn’t attempt to control the experience by restricting questions. If you really want to help people, you must allow them to present their needs and ask the questions that are on their minds. So, what do you do if someone blindsides you with a question.

You simply say, “I don’t know.” That’s it!

Actually, in my own talks, what I say is, “That’s a great question. No one’s ever asked me that question before. Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that, but if you (see me after my talk; give me your email address/phone number; visit my blog next week), I’ll see what I can do for you.” And then move on.

Practice that for a while and you’ll see just how liberating those few words can be. Accepting that it’s okay not to know something is often the one thing stopping most people from launching excitedly into satisfying, fulfilling and profitable public appearances.

How I prepare

Before I make any public appearance, I make a list of the main points I want to get across. Those include any special insights I’ve come to that may be relevant to the moment and any current events (recession, layoffs, elections, etc.). This list also includes administrative stuff that I might forget to mention (website, e-mail address, titles and availability of my books), as well as major points that people need in order to understand the basic premise of my talk. I keep these on the podium, or on the table next to me during an interview so that, as the appearance progresses, or comes to an end, I can be sure to incorporate them. (If I’m the interviewee, I sometimes provide the host/producer with these points so that they can make the necessary transitions and keep the interview moving forward.)

‘I always say the right thing’

After years of doing public speeches, and radio appearances, I absolutely never rehearse or plan anything in a particular order. I may visualize myself in a scene making certain points to the audience, but what I do that has been the most profound and helpful is simply repeat “I always say the right thing” over and over and especially right before I go on stage or sit at the microphone.

That simple mantra, that affirmation is all I need to bolster the confidence that I need, and remind myself that my strength and the value I offer the world is not in a script, it rests not in rehearsals, but exists entirely in the faith I have that I will serve the needs of the people I engage at any moment, and in any circumstance which is presented to me. Try it out!


Public talks and interviews are an invaluable way to get yourself, your product and/or service into the minds of increasing numbers of people. Once you get over your initial fear of public speaking, and get comfortable with the realization that you’re not expected to know everything, you’ll find, as you do more and more of them, that most appearances follow some sort of pattern. You are often asked the same questions, often in the same order. You’ll notice that you run into people who share similar concerns, interests and personalities. You’ll also find that people are generally supportive and want to see you succeed, rather than hostile and judgmental as you might fear. Remember, as the person on the stage or on the air, you are automatically given a certain amount of credibility that you can use to your advantage. Yes, as you get out in the public sphere more frequently, you’ll find your niche, establish your rhythm and pace and get even more confident in your ability to speak your truth, share your expertise, and bring your unique value to the world. And that, after all, is what it’s all about!

Fear not! The world is with you!


Ever wanted to direct your friends and family to a set of websites that said good things about Saipan? Do what I do: send them to!

Fans and followers of Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin: Diary of a Chinese Garment Factory Girl on Saipan may now find copies at Bookseller Bookstore in the Joe-Ten Plaza in Susupe or on Hurry, there’s a limited supply!

Note: For more tips on overcoming your fears, acting on your ideas, changing the game, and creating a passion-centered lifestyle, visit!


Until next week, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!

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