Confessions of a Public Speaker

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Authors: Scott Berkun
after you leave.
    [ 22 ] As an alumni of Carnegie Mellon University, I got a special
     thrill from speaking in a room I’d fallen asleep in many times.
     However, the bigger rooms in Doherty Hall should be studied for their
     sleep-inducing powers
    [ 23 ] For information on the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster,
     see .
    [ 24 ] From
The Man Who Influenced Millions
     Giles Kemp and Edward Claflin (St. Martin’s Press), p. 154.
    [ 25 ] After the lecture, his students apologized for his behavior;
     apparently, I was not the first to be received so warmly. I politely
     contacted him afterward to see what he was upset about. His response
     was to offer to send me some of his books so I “might learn

Chapter 5. Do not eat the microphone

    There are many stupid people in this world, and I’m sure you’ve met
    some of them. George Carlin, one of the brightest minds of our time, once
    observed that the average person isn’t that smart—and worse, half the
    population is dumber than that average person. More interesting perhaps is
    whenever I ask a room full of people, “Who here thinks they’re above
    averageintelligence?”, more than half the room always raises their
    hands. If you are truly smarter than those around you, your superiority
    should make you feel good; but then again, even the smart among us do
    stupid things. Einstein flunked his college entrance exams just as Julius
    Caesar overlooked the pointy knives in his friends’ robes. I’m sure Mozart
    spilled coffee on his piano and Julia Child burned Thanksgiving turkeys
    now and then. All considered, given the vast number of stupid people—and
    bright people doing stupid things—in the world, some public speakers will
    seem less than smart. There is no way around it. No amount of training
    will make a man with two brain cells seem anything but dumb, as the
    problem is not his ability to speak, it’s his inability to think. It’s
    rarely said, but some people will never be good public speakers. Unless
    they find someone to do their thinking for them, they only have, at best,
    half the tools they need.
    Even for manysmart people working ona presentation, they’re so seduced by style that they lose
    the substance. They worry about slide templates, images, movies, fonts,
    clothes, hair, and the rest, forgetting to do the harder and more
    important work of thinking deeply about what points they want to make. It
    is possible to become an eloquent speaker, who makes beautiful slides and
    has a great vocabulary and perfect diction, without having much to say. Or
    worse, has much to say that is untrue, misleading, and impractical for or
    irrelevant to the audience. I wouldn’t call these people idiots precisely,
    but it would be fair to say they’ve squandered much of their brain’s
    energy considering problems that were not the most important to solve. The
    problem with most bad presentations I see is not the speaking, the slides,
    the visuals, or any of the things people obsess about. Instead, it’s the
    lack of thinking.
    There are many things that get in the way of good thinking, but the
    legend thatLincoln wrote theGettysburg Address on the back of an envelope is especially
    notorious for doing so. The story is often told to suggest Lincoln’s
    brilliance—that he could just scribble one of the greatest speeches of all
    time in a few spare moments while riding ona train. It’s a story that inspires many to forgo preparing
    in favor of getting up on stage and winging it, as if that’s what great
    leaders and thinkers do. The fallacy of the legend is to assume that the
    only momentsLincoln spent thinking about the points he would make in the
    speech took place as he wrote them. That somehow he never thought about
    the horrors of the Civil War, the significance of human sacrifice, and the
    future of the United States except while he wrote down the words of the
    address on a random scrap of

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