The Art of Speaking  

Learning from an experienced public speaker

The art of public speaking

YouTube /Wade Paterson

“Public speaking is an art,” says Swish Goswami.

“It’s an art that you need to practice, that you need to learn. Anyone can go up and give them a piece of paper and they’ll talk. But how many people will actually go out of their way to memorize their speech? How many people will go out of their way to move around while speaking? How many people will use hand motions properly, not in a way that’s pretentious or way too much? How many people are going to look into the eyes of their audience while they’re giving the most dramatic part of their speech? How many people are going to pause? How many people will make jokes throughout that are spontaneous and not scripted?" he says.

“This is all the art of public speaking that you only really learn after you do it more and more.”

As part of furthering my goal to become a better public speaker, I decided to launch a podcast/YouTube interview series this past December, called Keys from Keynotes.

Do professional keynote speakers get nervous before they take the stage? How do the pros build their speeches? What do keynote speakers do right before they begin speaking to their audience? Those were the types of questions I wanted to find answers to through this series.

For the third episode of Keys from Keynotes, I had the chance to interview Swish Goswami, who is an incredibly successful young entrepreneur who has started six high-impact ventures across four industries.

Early in our conversation, Swish explained how there is often a perception entrepreneurs are automatically good public speakers. However, that’s not always the case. For Swish, it’s a skill he’s been intentionally working on since he joined debate club in Grade 7.

Here are the four biggest takeaways I gained from my conversation with Swish.

You don’t have to use slides

Swish rarely uses slides or visual aids for his presentations.

While he jokes laziness may be one reason for this (which is hard to believe considering he was once awarded with a United Nations’ Outstanding Youth Leadership Award), the real reason is he finds visuals to be distracting when he watches other speakers. Instead, he takes an authentic, conversational approach to his speeches.

For many speakers who rely on slides, a great fear is if the technology were to ever fail them it would be nearly impossible to do their speech. While that isn’t personally a motivation for Swish’s unplugged speeches, it’s safe to say he doesn’t have to worry about AV issues at any event.

Embrace questions and answers

Swish loves incorporating time for audience questions during his speeches, and he isn’t afraid to tell the audience when he doesn’t know the answer.

“In my opinion, the best public speakers are interactive with their audience, and it’s a two-way street.”
If he doesn’t know the answer to a question, he will ask the audience what they think and will turn it into a conversation.

Speaking is a team sport

“I’m really annoying backstage,” Swish jokes.“I love talking to (everyone). I want to make sure everyone backstage is feeling positive… I always feel like we’re part of a team.”

According to Swish, the success of a speech is not just reliant on him, but on the event organizer, the lighting team, the audio/visual team and many other people who work behind the scenes. It’s important to him that he communicates with his teammates and ensures everyone is feeling comfortable.

It's OK to get nervous

One of the things all three guests of Keys from Keynotes have in common is they get nervous before taking the stage.

Even though these individuals are professional public speakers who have honed their craft for several years, each of them experiences some level of anxiety before every single speech.

The nerves exist because they care.


If you’re thinking about joining Toastmasters to improve your public speaking skills, our Kelowna AM Toastmasters Club is always looking for new members.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Keep your audience off their phones?

Impactful public speaking

YouTube /Wade Paterson

I want you to imagine this scenario—you step on stage, begin speaking and halfway through your presentation, you notice the entire audience is looking down at their phones.

Sounds horrible, right?

The situation detailed above can be daunting for any speaker. It’s hard enough to deliver a speech, but when you realize people aren’t paying attention, it can be even more stressful.

In this column, I will explain how to avoid getting discouraged when noticing a distracted audience member, and I will share a few strategies of how you can win back the audience’s attention.

Don’t panic

First off, it’s important to understand that just because someone is on their phone doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention.

The reality of the world we live in is that people feel the need to keep an eye on their devices. Perhaps there is an important call they are waiting for, or an urgent e-mail they need to send. Every single time I personally deliver a presentation, I fully anticipate at least a few people will be periodically looking at their phones.

It’s also important to remember many people choose to take notes on their phones. So while they may be staring at their screens, perhaps it is for the purpose of writing down notes, which highlight parts of your speech.

When you realize the audience looking at their phones isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it takes away some of the anxiety.

Leverage body language and vocal variety

If you are making purposeful movements on stage and incorporating vocal variety, you are far more likely to capture your audience’s attention than if you are simply standing in front of a lectern, reading notes in a monotone fashion.

Ninety-three per cent of how a message is communicated is through body language and vocal variety. Speakers who incorporate body language are not only more effectively communicating their message, but they’re also more interesting to watch.

Phones are jam-packed with interesting content and features, so if we want to compete for attention, we need to earn the audience’s attention by being interesting on the stage.

Use humour

If you can get the audience to laugh within the first minute of your speech, you have a good chance of keeping them off of their phones throughout the entire presentation.

When a speaker begins hi or her presentation, the audience often asks themselves if the content is going to be interesting. By making the audience laugh early, you instantly relax them and reassure them that the speech is going to be great.

On the flip side, hearing the audience laugh early gives you (the speaker) an immediate dose of confidence because you know they are enjoying themselves.

Utilize eye contact

There’s a level of accountability that takes place when the speaker makes eye contact with an audience member.

If a speaker never looks directly at a certain audience member, that individual won’t feel bad to look down at their phone. However, when eye contact is established, the member of the audience will likely be more hesitant to look down because they won’t want to upset the speaker.

Eye contact also deepens your message as a speaker. By looking at audience members in the eye, you make them feel more a part of whatever you are talking about, which is a powerful way to deliver your message effectively.

If you’re thinking about joining Toastmasters to improve your public speaking skills, the Kelowna AM Toastmasters Club is always looking for new members.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

When speaking in public, hook your audience from the start

Start speaking with impact

YouTube Wade Paterson

I have less than eight seconds to capture your attention with this month’s column.

In fact, you’re probably already considering clicking away from this article and reading one of the many intriguing headlines Castanet is offering you up at this very moment.

As speakers, we have approximately the same amount of time to capture an audience’s attention when delivering a speech. Therefore, it’s essential you hook your audience right from the start.

This month, I’m going to provide you with four ways to deliver a powerful introduction as part of your next speaking opportunity.

What not to do

Before I share four powerful speech introductions, let’s talk about what not to do when speaking in front of an audience.

The first thing to avoid is being surprised by the volume of the microphone. You’ve probably seen this many times before—an amateur speaker grabs the microphone, begins talking and then says, “Whoa, that’s loud!”

Of course it’s loud, it’s a microphone! To avoid doing this, see if you can do a mic test prior to giving your speech so you familiarize yourself with having your voice amplified.

The second thing to avoid is doing the standard introduction—“Hi everyone, my name is Wade Paterson and I’m the best man at this wedding.”

By wasting the first few moments of your speech with an unnecessary introduction, you’re taking away the opportunity to capture your audience’s attention. You’ve probably already been introduced by the MC of the event, so there is no need to waste any time saying your name; rather, dive right into the great content.

Hit your audience with a powerful statistic

“Eighty per cent of videos on social media, are viewed without the sound on.”

“Only 13% of employees say they actually feel engaged at the workplace.”

“The average human attention span is eight seconds.”

Each of those statistics is powerful, surprising and set the tone for what the speech is going to be about.

By delivering a powerful statistic as the first sentence of your speech, it disrupts the norm. As mentioned earlier, most speakers start by introducing themselves, but if you walk on stage and hit your audience with a powerful stat, they are going to be drawn into your speech right from the beginning.

If you decide to use a statistic as part of your speech introduction, ensure you know the source of the data and that the stat is accurate. And only use a fact or figure that is relevant to the rest of your speech.

Ask a thought-provoking question

“Are you happy?”

“What does success mean to you?”

“If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?”

Starting your speech with a thought-provoking question forces your audience to use their brains immediately and think about how they would answer the question. By engaging your audience this way early, they are more likely to stay focused throughout your entire speech.

Similar to the previous tip, make sure the question you ask is relevant to the overall theme of the presentation.

Tell a story

Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have as public speakers.

By jumping into a story with the first sentence of our speech, we immediately tap into our audience’s imagination as they visualize what we’re describing from the stage.

I’ve seen many speakers tell stories midway through their speech, which is completely fine, but by starting your speech with a story, you have the chance to do something very original and draw your audience deep into your message in a way they’ll remember.

Bonus points if your story is humourous. If you can get the audience to laugh early on, they will relax and pay closer attention throughout the entire speech. And you will relax and gain confidence knowing the audience is enjoying themselves.

Do something unique

My favourite speech introduction is by Sarah Kay, with her TED Talk: If I should have a daughter.

Sarah opens her speech by reciting a poem, which lasts about three minutes and 30 seconds. When she says the final words of her poem, the entire audience rises to their feet and gives Sarah a standing ovation.

Because Sarah’s approach is so unique, there’s a bit of healthy tension that’s built up during those first three-and-a-half minutes. You can tell the audience is initially unsure how to react. But as Sarah confidently continues, she draws her audience in deeper and deeper.

For those of us who aren’t poets, there are other ways we can do something unique. If you’re musically inclined, you could start your speech by singing part of a song, or playing an instrument (as long as it can be tied into the overall message of your presentation). I’ve even seen speakers start their sessions by doing a magic trick, or painting a picture while they talk.

If you have a creative talent, consider tapping into it as part of your presentation.

As a bonus tip, a powerful way to conclude your speech is by making it come full circle.

For example, if you delivered a powerful statistic as part of your introduction, consider repeating that tip as part of your conclusion, while summarizing the points you gave in your speech. If you opened with a question, ask that question again, but perhaps tweak it based on the information you provided in your presentation. If you told a story, end your speech by referencing that story once again.

Speeches that come full circle have an impactful cohesiveness, and make the audience feel as though you’ve taken them on a fascinating journey.

If you’re thinking about joining Toastmasters to improve your public speaking skills, our Kelowna AM Toastmasters Club is always looking for new members.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Tips from a world champion public speaker

Speaking of champions

YouTube /Wade Paterson

Growing up, Mohammed Qahtani rarely spoke.

His reluctance to communicate stemmed from a traumatizing experience he had in Grade 1. Mohammed’s teacher placed a book on his desk and asked him to read to the rest of the class. Despite having a speech impediment, Mohammed did his best to read the words out loud, however, he couldn’t hide his stutter.
His teacher slapped him across his face.

“There is no hope out of you,” he said.

Decades later, Mohammed would go on to be crowned Toastmasters International World Champion of Public Speaking.

I had the chance to learn about Mohammed’s remarkable story during an interview for my new podcast Keys from Keynotes. The goal of the podcast is to tap into the knowledge and expertise of some of the world’s best public speakers, and share what gives them confidence from the stage.

Mohammed’s transition from being unable to speak without stuttering to becoming world champion took years of perseverance in the face of ridicule.

During his last year of high school, a classmate challenged him to face his fear head on and volunteer to read the morning announcements for the school. Mohammed took his classmate’s challenge. It was a disaster. Four hundred students laughed at Mohammed as he stuttered through the announcements the next morning.

Frustrated, Mohammed confronted his classmate later that day and asked him why he would allow him to be humiliated. His classmate responded with words that would stick with Mohammed throughout the rest of his life: “Success doesn’t happen the first time. Go back and try again.”

Mohammed read the announcements the next day. And the day after that. And while he struggled each time, he noticed small improvements, so he kept going.

In 2009, he joined Toastmasters. At that point, he had overcome his fear of speaking and actually enjoyed the process of being on stage. Six years later, Mohammed’s speech “The Power of Words” won him the Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking. You can watch that speech here.

It doesn’t take long to realize why Mohammed’s speech earned the gold medal. Within the first few moments, he grabs the audience’s attention by pretending to light a cigarette on stage.

As Mohammed explains, an introduction is one of the most important elements of a speech.

“If you do not hook me in the first five seconds, my mind will automatically skip,” he says. “Do something spectacular within the first few seconds of your speech that will grab the audience’s attention.”

Mohammed is also an expert at injecting humour in his speeches.

“The audience loves two things.They love to laugh and they love to hear stories,” explains Mohammed. “You have to walk a thin line, because you want to be motivational and inspirational, but at the same time, you do not want to come out as a clown who just makes people laugh all the time.”

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned from my conversation with Mohammed was what he experienced after becoming world champion.

“It’s not as glamorous as you might think it is,” he says.

Outside of the Toastmasters organization, few people are aware of who the world champions of public speaking are. Sure, Mohammed had the opportunity to give a few speeches internationally following his victory but there wasn’t an abundance of money or fame that came with the title.

He encourages those who compete in Toastmasters competitions to really think about why they are entering the contest. If it’s to win a trophy, they are probably entering for the wrong reason. According to Mohammed, the “why” should be the opportunity to influence the audience and make a difference in the world.

“Every time I take the stage, whether I speak to thousands or even two or three people, I always give it my all. If I can only influence the life of one person, that person can change the life of another person, and that other person could change the lives of two other people

YouTube /Wade Paterson

. It could start a ripple effect that I might actually be able to change the entire world, just by (influencing) one person.”

If you’re thinking about joining Toastmasters to improve your public speaking skills, our Kelowna AM Toastmasters Club is always looking for new members.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Wade Paterson is an award-winning Toastmaster who is passionate about Impactful Communication.

His columns and accompanying YouTube videos are focused on helping others become more confident public speakers and communicators.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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