Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 115) – Michelangelo

Michelangelo Buonarotti (1475 – 1564) Italian Renaissance Sculptor and Painter

“If people only knew how hard I work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”


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  1. Hi John,
    I really appreciate the work you’re doing with the blog. I’m passionate about communication and, at its heart, public speaking is about communicating – connecting with people through language. A LOT of what shows up on the blog really resonates with me. This quote from Mike (cheap, I know) is really wonderful for its timeliness and truth. I think it’s so easy to diminish the accomplishments of great performers (I’m talking about effectiveness/quality of output, not fame) by attributing their results to innate ability. As romantic as it may seem to us, it does them a disservice because it minimizes the, often colossal, effort required to accomplish what they’ve accomplished. The other tragedy is that we let ourselves off the hook. We excuse ourselves from the effort required to achieve truly exceptional results by over-emphasizing the role of innate talent and under-emphasizing the role of deliberate, focused and regular practice.
    As a child I was incredibly self-conscious. I have red hair, I was always big for my age and my parents named me Everett. It’s not ‘Sue’ but it stuck out enough to inspire regular comment from the other kids :-). Thankfully it doesn’t rhyme with anything. Anyhow, you can understand how speaking to people, let alone in front of a group might have been difficult for me. Today I probably do more public speaking than the average person and I occasionally get a bit of positive feedback. I make it a point now to express my appreciation and then talk a little about what kind of effort that went into the preparation. I attribute any success I might have to the spirit and sincerity of the work done to prepare and NOT any innate talent and I want other folks to see that same potential for themselves. Grueling effort isn’t as romantic as innate talent but I find more inspiration in what’s possible with the right kind of effort than in what could have been possible if I only had the right genes :-). Innate talent is obviously real but I think it plays a much smaller role in great achievement than we often think.
    Anyhow, thanks for what you’re doing and for doing it so well!
    Warm Regards,

    1. Everett,
      Thank you so much for the thoughtful and poignant comment. I appreciate your taking the time and for opening yourself up a bit for readers by sharing some very personal experiences and thoughts. Your message immediately brought to mind a recent post that I did about Canadian indie folk-rock singer and songwriter Dan Mangan. You certainly epitomize that spirit.
      I spoke at an event in Lisbon, Portugal last year and had the opportunity to hear a keynote speech by Darren LaCroix, the 2001 Toastmasters World Champion. The thing that impressed me most about his talk was when he showed a photo of his closet that was packed from floor to ceiling with cassettes and videotapes of speeches that he had given in preparation for the contest and that he had analyzed over and over in an effort to become better. I like Darren and enjoy his speeches even if his speaking style is not my favourite. But I respect him tremendously for his incredible work ethic and it is that same work ethic that Michelangelo was thinking about when he spoke those words.
      Thanks again for taking the time to comment. I am glad that you enjoy the blog and look forward to meeting your expectations going forward.

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International