Recently, I was working with a group of people over a couple of days to help them improve their public speaking skills. For one exercise, I asked them to give a short (5-minute) speech on something that they cared about.
The first participant spoke about an issue that is very important to her. The topic was interesting and the material was good, but the delivery was flat. It was like she was checking off a list in her head just to get to the end. And the speech suffered because of it.
When she had finished, I asked her, “Do you believe what you just said?”
“Yes, of course,” she answered.
“I don’t believe you,” I responded. “You’re not invested in the subject. You were just going through the motions so that you could finish. You don’t care about it at all.”
The silence in the room hung like a cloud while she stood in front of us. Then I continued.
“Am I wrong?”
“Yes,” she said defiantly. (A good sign.)
“Then prove me wrong!” I challenged her. “Close your eyes, take a deep breath, think about your subject and then talk to us like you mean it.”
The difference was like that between night and day. When she finished the second time, people stood to applaud and there were more than a few misty eyes in the room, including mine.
What happened between the first and second attempts? She made the decision that she would own her speech. That she would accept responsibility for her words and that she would deliver them with enthusiasm and conviction.
If you are going to speak to an audience, do not waste people’s time. Do not just show up, rattle off your points and sit down. Look inside yourself and then speak in a manner that leaves no doubt that you believe in what are saying.
Own your speech.