Contagious Enthusiasm in Public Speaking

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Categories: Career Help

A few years ago, I was at a PMI chapter professional development day to give a presentation and attend some sessions.

Between sessions, I saw a young man who worked for one of the conference sponsors reading something. I asked him what he was reading, and he said he was going over his notes for his upcoming presentation.
"Excellent," I commented. "What will you be talking about?"

Our product," he replied. Then he added, "I'm probably going to bore everyone."

"Why would it bore everyone?" I asked. "Well," he said, "because it's a boring presentation."

Now I was really intrigued. I asked again why it's boring and got a similar response: "It's just not very interesting."

I kind of felt sorry for the guy, but thought maybe I could help him out.

I continued, "Certainly, it's interesting to you. You must have some enthusiasm for the topic -- the product you are here to sell! How can you share that enthusiasm with the folks who will be listening?"

"No," he replied, "I don't really find the topic interesting at all. I don't have any enthusiasm for it."

You can't give what you haven't got -- and the most important thing you can have when speaking is your enthusiasm for your topic. But having enthusiasm isn't enough. You have to be enthusiastic, and you have to be able to share your enthusiasm with others. But the biggest inhibitor to sharing enthusiasm is self-consciousness.

Therein, I believe, lays the great secret to effective public speaking.

Public speaking is a giving act. You are giving of yourself - your insights, your experience, your enthusiasm, your knowledge, your stories, your being. The effective speaker is fully tuned in to the people he or she is speaking to - fully conscious of their presence, their reaction, their needs - fully other-conscious. This leaves no room for self. No room for self-consciousness.

Next post, I'd like to explore this idea of being fully "other-conscious" a little more deeply. In the meantime, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about how being "self-conscious" can inhibit a speaker's effectiveness.
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Posted by Jim De Piante on: February 14, 2012 12:02 PM | Permalink

Comments (6)

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Hi Jim, very good post.

For as far as I can remember, I've been self-conscious all the time in my life; and realize that this is what makes/made me a stone cold person because I can't really show who I am or how excited I am about a subject for I think people will laugh on me or even will think in their minds "how silly this guys is, look at him, all excited about it (a 'exciteless' subject), poor guy!"

But also realize that when people is passionate about something, these are the best speakers as they deliver joy, grace to the audience and so they buy into the idea/proposal. Not only this, I notice this is also giving the best of you and then being in peace because of it.

Great talking to you. Peace.


david poole
You are absolutely right. Enthusiasm is important. Usually, prior preparation, and a way of building rapport with your audience are important. Enthusiasm is a key way of building rapport.

John Hersey
Thanks Jim,

As a professional speaker for over 15 years, and the author of Creating Contagious Leadership, I can say you have nailed this post. "You can't give what you haven"t got" says it all.

Thank you.
John Hersey

John Hersey

It took a while, but once I learned the "self-conscious" issue my speaking business changed dramatically.

In our profession, there is no room for "self-conscious." We are either concerned about the audience and every person in it or we are concerned about ourselves (how we look, how we sound, how well we deliver the information).

When we are truly about the audience the rest of all that just doesn't matter. For sure we need to be prepared, but speaking from the heart with total authenticity trumps every thing.

We cannot impact every person in the audience. That is really up to the individual. If they are committed to learning and having a break through, they'll get what they need. The speakers mission is to create an honest environment that allows those who are totally committed the freedom to learn, absorb, and change.

Thanks again.
John Hersey

Public Speaking for Kids
Absolutely agree Jim. We deal with kids in public speaking every day and let me tell you - top exec or project manager can learn a couple things from these kids. Especially on conviction for their cause AND enthusiasm to convert you to their point of view!

Just watch any 4 year old tell you why vegtable are bad for you and chocolates are good! :-D

Jim, definitely agree with the inspiration of your intro. What a great article to start with!

In my opinion, public speaking, in corporate environment, is often commissioned (appointed) and is not always initiated by the speakers themselves.

Yet commissioned presentation can still be effective, so long as the speakers own up what they say - what they know, what they experience, what they have an opinion on (if not a passion of).

So, ownership is the key - our common ground.

I want to point out, however, that it requires a combination of being "self-conscious" and "other-conscious" in your language.

In fact, speakers can perform much better if they are fully aware of their own feeling and message progress while they present.

Even if it is a commissioned work, it can become more effective if speakers have full control over the presentation environment (visual aids / acoustic / setup / equipment / lighting/ audience seating).

Now it leads to the "other-conscious" area - which, to me, is about client analysis and empathy. Really look forward to your next post!

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