What has your experience been as a speechmaker?

The chief executive officer (CEO) for a large company was experiencing a lot of anxiety about making an upcoming speech to his employees, to the point that it was affecting his ability to prepare. The situation he had to address in his speech was critical: sales were flat and a sense of doom hovered over the employees. Without obtaining additional contracts, the company would have to reduce staff, a potential event that fueled everyone’s sense of foreboding. Furthermore, the CEO knew that he wasn’t a good speaker. After his speeches, employees usually felt worse, it seemed. His halting delivery, inability to connect ideas, and lack of enthusiasm left much to be desired. Taking charge of the situation, the CEO consulted a professional speech coach and set to work on improving his skills. During their work together, the speech coach learned that the CEO had overcome major obstacles in life and in fact had been the leader of a U.S. Olympic team some years ago. Other stories from his life also came out, revealing this man to have led an interesting life and to have a strong character. The speech coach encouraged him to make use of these stories in speaking and to take confidence from what he had achieved in life. The CEO took that advice and worked some of the stories into the speech that he was preparing for his employees. First, he tried out the stories on friends and family during dinner conversations, and then he practiced his speech in front of a number of audiences, asking for their feedback and fine-tuning his content and delivery. The day of the speech arrived. The CEO felt excited and confident as he stepped up to the podium. Then, without even using notes, he gave the most inspiring speech his employees had ever heard from him. When he finished, the room was momentarily quiet, and then the audience erupted into applause that soon turned into a standing ovation. Later, everyone complimented him on what an outstanding job he had done in explaining the situation and motivating the audience. The company made a dramatic turnaround after this event, proving that his message had had the desired impact. The CEO himself commented, “I’ve never felt such confidence in my life. I prepared what I knew. I practiced like never before. I changed my delivery to be consistent with what I believed about our company’s future and myself. I guess it showed.” What has your experience been as a speechmaker? Have you made presentations in the classroom? Have you ever spoken to an audience outside the classroom?

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