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When to Speak

May 14, 2024

At least once a week, someone reaches out to me asking for advice on how to become a professional speaker.

To be clear: Speaking is not my full time job. But as an extension of my work at ADDO, I get to speak often, and I really enjoy it.  It is a gift that I am grateful to use whenever I get an opportunity.

Because I’m asked about this so frequently, I decided to answer this here. And the advice I have has implications far beyond speaking. 

So: Should I speak?

Well, it depends…

1. If you’re speaking more to be impressive than impactful, the answer is No.

Don’t speak just to say something, speak because you have something to say.

If your primary motivator is to experience the thrill of someone clapping at the end of your talk, you should not speak. To be honest, I enjoy the affirmation of others, so I am often asking myself this question: “Is my primary goal to be impactful or to be impressive?” When the latter becomes more important than the former, I am off track. Check your motives before you agree to speak.

2. If you actually have something to say, the answer is Yes.

Dr. Nick Morgan, Harvard professor and expert on public speaking, says, “The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.” His argument is that every time you stand in front of a group of people, you have the power to affect their perspective. Any group in any room. Whether a team meeting, a town hall, or a Sunday school class. 

Former President Barack Obama once said, “One voice can change a room. And if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city. And if it can change a city, it can change a state. And if it can change a state, it can change a nation. And if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world.”

Whether or not you like Obama’s politics, no one should deny his gifting as a speaker and that his words move people profoundly. And he is right in this statement. 

Your voice matters, so if you have a gift for public speaking, decide to use it for the good of other people.

Your decision to stand up and speak could change the world.

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