Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 320) – Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut (1922 – 2007) American Writer

“You are whatever you pretend to be.

— Kurt Vonnegut

(For some great insights from Vonnegut that can help you become a better speaker, click here and here.)

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A lesson from a farmer’s field

Public speakers can learn a lesson from a farmers.

Behind our home is a large farmer’s field. Over the years, I have seen that field grow wheat, corn, barley, sunflowers – which look amazing when they are in bloom – and other crops. This season, it appears as though the field will be left to lie fallow.

It’s important for farmers to let their fields lie fallow every now and then. Doing so gives the soil a chance to regenerate. In the short video below, I explain why this process is one that can benefit public speakers as well.

For more information about the Spectacular Speaking event that I mentioned in the video, please click on the icon below for a one-page PDF.


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Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 319) – Nancy Duarte

Nancy Duarte

Nancy Duarte – American Graphic Designer and Author of “Resonate” and “Slide:ology”

“Research shows that people learn more effectively from multimedia messages when they’re stripped of extraneous words, graphics, animation and sounds.

— Nancy Duarte

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A lesson from Dubrovnik

My wife, Julie and I recently went for a vacation in the Croatian city of Dubrovnik. Wonderful people, beautiful scenery, fascinating history. If you ever get the chance to visit, I highly recommend it.

One day, we took a cable car to the top of Mount Srđ which overlooks the city and offers a spectacular view of the Adriatic coastline. It puts Dubrovnik in a whole new perspective. It was a good reminder that public speakers need to have then same perspective when starting to prepare for a new speech or presentation. I explain in the short video below.

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Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 318) – Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004) American Actor and 4oth President of the United States

“I learned [during my time as a radio broadcaster] the fundamental rule of public speaking. Whether on the radio, on television or to a live crowd, talk to your audience, not over their heads or through them. Just use normal everyday words. I have never lost that vision of the fellows in the barbershop sitting around and listening to the radio.

— Ronald Reagan

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Things that public speakers don’t need on stage

When you deliver a speech or presentation, there are several things you do not need to bring on stage:

– Your cell phone

Coins in your pocket

– Keys in your pocket

– Anything that can jingle in your pocket

– Jewelry that can jingle, distract or interfere with your microphone

– A pen to hold for comfort

– Your name tag

At best, these things won’t help. At worst, they will become a major nuisance for you or the audience. We want to hear you, not some jingle.

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Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 317) – Richard Powers

Author Richard Powers

Richard Powers – American Novelist

“The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.

— Richard Powers

Photo courtesy of www.richardpowers.net
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Lessons from Senegal – Part 2

Teranga. It is the word that best represents the values at the heart of society in Senegal. During my trip to Dakar, I experienced it on a daily basis.

There is no direct translation of teranga in English. “Hospitality” comes close but it is an incomplete translation. The best way to understand teranga is to have it explained by someone from Senegal.

Pierre Thiam

Pierre Thiam is a famous Senegalese chef from Dakar. I first learned of Thiam in an episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. (Definitely worth watching.)

In an interview about Senegalese cuisine, Thiam explains teranga this way:

Teranga is the word that symbolizes Senegal the best, I think. Teranga is a Wolof word that would translate to hospitality, but it’s not the right way to translate teranga.

Teranga is much more than just hospitality. It’s a value. If there’s a set of values in Senegal, teranga would be the most important one. It’s the way you treat the guest. It’s the way you treat the other, the one who is not you. That person becomes the one to whom you have to offer teranga. You have to treat him with so much respect. You have to offer him what you have. You have to invite him to sit around your bowl.

There’s always room for the other around your bowl. Why? Because we believe that the other is bringing blessings. When you share your bowl, your bowl will always be plentiful. This is the deep-rooted Senegalese belief; we believe that there’s always more. You will never lack by sharing. Actually, when you share, you guarantee yourself that tomorrow if there’s more, there’s going to be more food in your bowl. This is a country that values the wealth of a person not by how much he has, but by how much he shares, by how much he gives.

That’s what I would say to summarize what teranga means. There’s not one word that describes it, but teranga is what Senegal is. It’s something that’s really unique to my country. I’m not saying that because I’m Senegalese. It’s just this value has been instilled in us that we have to treat the other as the most important person in the world.

It’s a beautiful word and a beautiful idea. The world could certainly use more teranga.

Speakers can also learn a lesson from Pierre Tham and apply the principle of teranga in their speeches and presentations.

    • The audience is your guest.
    • You must treat the audience with so much respect.
    • You have to offer the audience what you have — knowledge, insight, hope, inspiration, guidance, motivation.
    • When you share your bowl (i.e., your message and yourself) on stage, your bowl will never be empty. There will always be more: more people who know you; more people for whom you make a difference; more speaking opportunities; more chances to leave your mark on the world.

I find the whole idea behind teranga inspirational and aspirational, and I have been thinking about it a lot.

In his show about Senegal, Anthony Bourdain said:

Some places surprise you. Even if you’ve been traveling nearly non-stop for 15 years like me, there are places that snap you out of your comfortable world view, take your assumptions and your prejudices, and turn them upside down. They lead you to believe that maybe, there is hope in the world. Senegal is one of those places.

I understand what he means.

Photo courtesy of www.pierrethiam.com
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Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 316) – Seth Godin

Seth Godin – American Entrepreneur and Author

“The idea of marketing is this: Do you have a story that’s worth telling? Are there people who need to hear it and who want to hear it? And is it true? That’s marketing.

— Seth Godin

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Lessons from Senegal – Part 1

I recently had the privilege of traveling to Dakar, Senegal. There I worked with 30 officials from the United Nations (in French) to help them improve their public speaking and presentation skills. These men and women are doing important work in often difficult conditions all over Africa. It was a privilege for me to be with them.

After my workshop, I stayed a few extra days to experience a bit of the country. On one of those days, I visited an island off the north coast of Dakar, Île de Ngor.

Ngor is a beautiful, tranquil island. A great place to spend the day alone with your thoughts, ambling along sandy lanes lined with bougainvillea or sitting on the edge of rocky cliffs above the ocean.

While visiting Ngor, I shot this video to share a  few reflections from my workshop.

It is important to be mindful and respectful of cultural differences when speaking in another country. But there are some principles that are universal when it comes to public speaking. Principles like connecting with your audience, structuring your talk, and using the timeless wisdom of Aristotle to move your audience to action. 

A big thank you to everyone from the United Nations with whom I worked. And a big “Jërëjëf”  to the people of Senegal.

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Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 315) – Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) American Author and Journalist

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”

— Ernest Hemingway

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Sketches from the Summer School of Rhetoric – Part 5

This is the fifth and final post in a series based on the sketches that graphic recorder Linda Saukko-Rauta made during my public speaking workshop in Hämeenlinna, Finland. I was speaking at the 2019 edition of the Summer School of Rhetoric.

Today’s sketch is about the elements of a message that sticks; i.e., that the audience will remember. It is based on the book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. I wrote a series of posts on the book several years ago. You can find the first post on the book here.

For the previous sketch in the series, please click here.

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