“Join me as I make welcome a motivational speaker to the podium, GEORGE ESSIEN!” the moderator said.
There were unsure applause from the audience in that large auditorium. They didn’t know me. About 3000 people were seated and the hall was literally filled.
I had spoken to various crowds before, but this was different. I had traveled hundreds of kilometers for this program and I had to perform.
You know, when you call up a comedian, what do you expect? Of course, you expect to laugh. So when a motivational speaker is called up, the natural expectation of the audience is to be motivated. And I could really sense that expectation.
I climbed up the stage to do my thing.
“Hello!” I called out to the audience.
“Hi”, they gave the natural response.
“Put those lovely hands together for yourselves”, I said.
Who wouldn’t want to applaud himself or herself? The applause came in ascending claps.
“Now stand up on your feet and look at your neighbour eye ball to eye ball”, I continued just after the applause had mellowed down.
The audience did as instructed.
I pushed, “Look at the person by you , eyeball to eyeball. If the person isn’t looking straight at you, may be the person is suffering from shyness”
The audience erupted in laughter. Even the reluctant ones began to really look at their neighbours seriously.
“Say to your neighbour ,‘Neighbour!’ ” I said.
“Neighbour!” Everybody chorused.
“I don’t think your neighbour heard you well, say, ‘Neighbour’”. The audience chorused louder
“I am more than this!”
The audience said those words out to each other. The impact of those words they just said seemed to dawn on them.
“Now walk up to three or four persons and tell them very seriously, ‘I am more than this! I am more than this!’ ”
The energy of participation possessed the audience and they began to interact and talk to each other. I stood up at the stage and watched this happening.
“Introduce yourself to your friend”, I added. “Say , ‘I’m so-and-so, may I know your name? I am more than this!’ ”
In a couple of seconds they were done interacting and they were already feeling excited about what they had just done.
“Put those lovely hands together for yourselves once again”
Their applause was louder and excited and I could hear some of their screams and whistles from every corner of the auditorium. They were already getting motivated.
“Please take your seats”.
I had freed their minds. I had broken the ice. They could work with me. I had created a charged atmosphere. The stiffness had crumbled; the unfamiliarity had varnished. There was now a connection between the audience and I. I could now speak. And of course I did so well.
Things were not always this way. I remember vividly when I started doing public speaking. I was only 8 years old when I was made to face a crowd. The experience of my first public speaking is still etched in my memory.
I was involved in a debate competition in my primary school. I started off strong , but right in the middle of it all, I got stuck. It seemed as though my heart was in my mouth. I struggled to remember the words I had crammed , but couldn’t. I kept repeating the last sentence. As I write these words , I can remember those moments, and I can still hear Mr.Ade’s voice call out to me from the background. “Come on, George. You can do it.”
But I still fumbled. My time was up while I stood helplessly facing the parents and teachers. They clapped for me encouragingly as I eventually left the stage undone. That experience was enough to make me want to make me give up public speaking. But I didn’t.
7 years later, I messed things up again on stage. This time the whole school was depending on me for victory at a debate competition. I did very well in the first round, but at the second , I forgot my lines, mixed up points, and literally stammered. We came third in that competition and I felt like a loser. I really did.
Today, I do a lot of motivational speaking on radio and TV. I stand before different audiences and still do my thing with ease and confidence. Of course, once in a while , I could miss my lines, may miss points and even stammer, but I never leave the stage without an applause – not like the encouraging one I received when I was eight at that debate competition, but applauses of deep satisfaction and excitement. And if they paid any amount to attend any of my success seminars or conferences, they get value for their money’s worth.
You see, I almost never do badly when I have cause to speak. Why ? I know how to speak. I know the dynamics, the mix, the pros and cons of communication. Now, I don’t just know them , I have practiced them over and over again.
With these principles as my guide , I have gotten people to react the way I wanted them to. If I wanted them to feel my emotions and even cry, they did. If I wanted them to laugh, they did. If I wanted them to scream in joy and exhilaration, they did.
Great speakers are both born and made. If you are not born with the privilege of being naturally eloquent, you can take solace in the fact that legendary Greek communicator, Demosthenes initially had a speech impediment but trained himself to become an exceptional speaker.
So you too can!
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