After an hour of motivational talk that I’d spice up with nonstop humor, the audience often just couldn’t get enough of me. They would shout “More! More!” in chorus and I would then oblige them by extending my talk for another 30 minutes or so.
Often, after only the first five minutes, the audience in a good many of such talks would rather that the speaker stop and leave the stage. Why then would they want an extension in my case?
Do they love my presentation? Do they love being entertained while being taught at the same time? Or do they just plain love me?
Make a guess. Because unless you see me on stage or watch me on YouTube, you won’t have a proper appreciation of how I do it.
But as tempting as it is to make this book about me, it really isn’t about me. It’s really about you. It’s just that I can only do it by talking about me. I just need to tell stories about me to make a point, that’s all. For this book is not a product of a routine Google search or the typical how-to that you find in the Internet. To teach you about public speaking, I can only talk about my own successes and failures in doing it. Indeed, this is about my real-life experiences in public speaking.
And I’ll tell you right off that my public speaking career has not always been a 100% success. There were failures, too, especially in the early years. And I made mistakes that I had to pay for heavily.
In the beginning, I can see now, my motivational talks must have tortured many people to death from boredom. I’m exaggerating, of course, but that’s the thought that always came to mind when I’d see them leave their seats one by one. The situation was such that when the last person was about to leave the room, I’d be almost tempted to run after him or her and say, “Hey, please wait for me. I’m about to leave as well.”
I’d get feedback from lots of people that I did great, only to hear later from friends that those very same people told them that I had messed up. It’s doubly painful to learn that some seemingly appreciative people would actually talk behind my back about my speaking performance.
Some give honest feedback, of course. But others would lie so you won’t get hurt. And if you’re not very mindful about the quality of your public speaking, you’d probably end up believing those who do lie about your performance.
The thing is that as a public speaker, you should know when people do like you and when they don’t. That way, you can further improve on what they liked and avoid repeating what they didn’t the next time around—assuming that you’d be given a second chance.
You are the best judge of your own performance.
And so, generally, this book is about you, you who bought this book (or borrowed this book by force from a friend because you didn’t have the money to buy a copy), you who probably have the same dream that I had many years ago—the dream of someday becoming a master of the stage in public speaking.
The road to effective public speaking and to dynamic presentations or simply amazing speeches is long and never-ending. Once you feel that you’re getting your rhythm and you’re already comfortable speaking before large audiences, you need to take time to review your performance and find out what you can still improve on. Complacency is your worst enemy.
In 2012, just when I felt I was already on top of my game, having already gained recognition as an outstanding young public speaker in the lecture circuit, I encountered someone who made me feel so amateurish.
This was in an event attended by more than a thousand people, an event that was supposed to highlight me as a superstar. But unexpectedly, one motivational standup comedian stole the thunder from me, making the audience fall from their seats in laughter and drawing great praises as he finished and left the stage.
His amazing performance got me so disoriented that when it was my turn to speak, I went totally out of focus. How could it be possible for someone to be better than me?
Speaking but thinking at the same time of how I could get the upper hand from that speaker and win back my audience, I left my strength zone, experimented on stage with all sorts of attention-getting contrivances, and eventually messed up.
It was a very long day for me. Honestly, I came up with probably the most physically tiring and emotionally draining speech I had delivered in years. I didn’t like my performance. I’m sure my audience didn’t like it, too. Nobody liked it.
Thinking about it now, that performance was a disaster waiting to happen. When I had already arrived at my comfort zone, and when I allowed the accolades and high praises for my public speaking at that point get into my head, that was the beginning of my fall.
Call it a wake-up call. When a perceived stardom drowned me, failure struck me and I was forced to bring myself back to where I needed to be—reality.
This is what this book on public speaking is all about—reality. Because the truth is, you can’t fake it in public speaking. Sooner than later, people would know or feel if you’re genuine or fake, if what you say is true or not, if you are really sincere or just making a business out of your craft.
In this book then, I will share real lessons, real stories, and real experiences in public speaking. I hope to put them together and present them in a narrative that is interesting and compelling enough to encourage you to speak like no other.
I wrote this book with no intention of making you become like me. No, I don’t expect you to be like me—not even close. It would be unfair to you. Instead, I sincerely want you to become better in public speaking than I am.
As a public speaker or a presenter or a teacher, your privilege to speak and influence a lot of people comes with it a responsibility to make the presentation worth their time, effort, and money. Listening to a boring and uninteresting presentation given by an equally boring and uninteresting speaker is wasted time for both the speaker and the audience.
When you get that rare opportunity to hold the microphone behind a podium during a special gathering, do your presentation with all your energy, with all your attention, with all your genuine intention, and with all your heart—or don’t do it at all.
Save yourself from disgrace and spare yourself from the disgust of judgmental audiences that silently curse you even as you speak.
Prepare for a magical performance that will amaze everyone in your audience. Develop your unique set of skills for keeping their eyes and minds open, wanting for more from you. Grow your own innate talent for capturing the heart of the people watching and listening to you. Celebrate your own style for keeping audiences awake and alive. Always be a better version of yourself one speaking engagement after another. Keep on improving your presentation. Tirelessly upgrade yourself, level up, and stay cool.
And keep in mind that public speaking is not only an art form. There is some science in it as well. Who knows if there is some mathematics, music, history, geography, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and economics in it, too?
How you will fare in blending the art and the science and all those other stuff in public speaking will definitely define you as an amazing public speaker.
Think of yourself as the light that shines through every person in front of you. A river that flows in their veins. A blanket that gives them comfort. A compass that gives them direction.
Never fail the people that have given you their time, money, energy, and opportunity to be heard and to be seen. You owe them that honor and privilege.
Lastly, the prospect of public speaking stardom can be realized only if you have the purest desire to serve the people. You speak not because you want to be a star. You are a star so that’s why you speak. You shall have truly become an amazing speaker when your light shines in the hearts of those who stop, look, and listen to you.
Lloyd A. Luna
November 6, 2015
Makati City, Philippines